Get Motivated

by Peter Attia on November 20, 2012

I recently spoke with a couple of guys who were starting a new project and needed some help with their SEO. These guys had sold a few online businesses in the past and were going for another. They obviously knew what they were doing; they had a great content strategy, great business idea, and a ton of motivation. This was a project I was very excited about, as I rarely get to work on a project so early in development. I couldn’t wait to get started!

Early on in our relationship, they asked me about getting back links for their site to increase their rankings in Google. They came to me very excited about a great deal they found – 3000 links for $50!!!

… Wait, what?

I was completely baffled. Anyone that has even the slightest experience in online marketing knows cheap, low quality links are against Googles guidelines. How did they think this was a good idea? I mean, come on, these guys had sold several online businesses already. Surely they at least found this suspicious, right?

I explained to them that with the recent penguin update, they should avoid these types of link building practices. They came back to me confused by my response and asked me if they should at least try it out and see if it brings any results. I went on to warn them this could effect their rankings negatively instead of positively.

A week or so went by and they came back to me with “What about this service? We feel the increased price reflects the quality”1000 “Penguin Safe” links for $200!!!

… You’ve got to be kidding me.

I immediately shook my head involuntarily and suggested that they target a few quality links to begin with as that would have more effect than thousands of mediocre links.

I never landed them as a client… They’ve since lost all their major rankings in the search engines.

This was an oddly mind opening experience for me. I’ve had the luxury of working with clients of all sizes, niches, and budgets. I felt like I was prepared to adequately discuss online marketing with any potential client, without any surprises. Yet, here I was, confused and asking myself:

What the fuck just happened?

  • Did I not adequately warn them?
  • Was it my fault they lost their rankings?
  • Should I have been more clear?
  • Did I not make the benefits of quality links obvious?
  • Why didn’t they just listen to me?

This went on for several days. I even started wondering if maybe they didn’t take me seriously, because I was much younger than them. Then I remembered a story someone once told me about a lawyer that had been working on a serious case. This was a trial that had been dragged out for several months and was fairly controversial. In the end, they found the defendant guilty and he received the death sentence. All that hard work from the attorney’s end was for nothing. Afterwards, a reporter asked the lawyer how he felt about the outcome and what he planned on doing next. Completely unfazed, he responded “I’m going to lunch”.

I started to realize I was taking things way too personally. I wasn’t thinking rationally or professionally. These guys weren’t even a client! They were just someone I’d been talking to about potentially taking on! There is no reason I should even think twice about their poor decisions. They should be held responsible for their own actions.

I started wondering if maybe I should change how I thought about my clients. If I should look at them as just clients instead of a father of two with a modest suburban home and a nine year old dog he adores. Thinking maybe I should start thinking strictly businesses minded and putting myself before my clients.

But… That’s just not me. I do take shit personally, because that’s what makes me love my career. I think of my clients sites as my own. That’s what gives me the motivation to be so competitive. I like to win and if I was detached from my clients on a personal level, I wouldn’t have the urge to try so hard.

I’m by no means suggesting this is what makes someone good at their job. This is just what works for me. If you haven’t found what motivates you at work every – single – day, figure it out. It doesn’t matter if it’s something completely untraditional or that defies reasonable logic. There are tons of old school conservative thoughts on “what makes a great employee” that are complete bullshit. Everyone is different. You don’t have to take on the traits of a successful peer to be successful yourself.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Jason November 21, 2012 at 8:28 am

Cool article. Obviously, if there was some cookie-cutter method to success, we’d all be using it. I think we can also delude ourselves greatly by always looking to others for motivation and support instead of looking inward to see what truly motivates us.

Also, the idea of someone selling 1000 “penguin safe” links is hilarious.


Peter Attia November 21, 2012 at 12:17 pm

I completely agree Jason. I feel like oftentimes people aspire to become someone else, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it can keep you from finding your strengths.

As for the 1000 “penguin safe” links, don’t even get me started! Haha! It urks me that websites like that are still making money.


Henley Wing November 21, 2012 at 9:51 am

Heh, I also think most of those ‘what makes a great employee’ articles are BS.

In the end, being motivated and passionate will get you 99% of the way there. If you aren’t motivated, you’ll show up on time, ask the right questions, communicate well, and treat others with respect.


Peter Attia November 21, 2012 at 12:22 pm


I think with the rise of startups especially, people are starting to realize that non-traditional work environments can work. However, it’s still quite lacking.

This is especially true with older companies. I know of a situation where a job was denied, because of a poor credit score. I was blown away by that.



Chris Dyson November 27, 2012 at 10:58 am

I’m with you Peter I consider my clients sites as my own,

I often find myself saying “We” and not “you” and really do think this is a great way for them to know I am commited to them and that I’m as much a part of their website as they are. We win together and we lose together…


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