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What Do I Mean by Cutting Catapult Ropes?

I'm exploring the metaphor of cutting catapult ropes and how it relates to my professional trade. I'm reflecting on the opportunities available to me, the challenges I face, and my experiences with cutting catapult ropes in the past. I'm looking to make a positive difference in my own life, the lives of those around me, and the world at large.

Cutting Catapult Ropes: My Journey to Cut the Weakest Link and Achieve Success

By Michael Levin

Sunday, May 14, 2023

I have spoken lately of cutting catapult ropes. There’s an SEO-metaphor for you. I have sometimes said that I practice my trade on behalf of others because they pay me well to do it because I am good at it. And so if that is true, if the time and day ever came for me to do it for myself, it would be like cutting catapult ropes.

Well, I don’t know how true that is anymore and am wondering whether certain limited-time windows have closed on me, like when taking 2 minutes to record me doing some stupid magic trick could drive a million views to a YouTube video. Well, one never knows if those days are over, or whether there are new opportunities with audience on different channels, or whether there aren’t even better ways to connect with even more copacetically-vibed audiences. You’ve got to be running tests. You’ve got to have many irons in the fire. You’ve got to have many plates spinning. Oh, we SEOs and our metaphors.

I had to do a pretty quick job-switch a few months back. My whole department was dissolved. Hey, it’s the times and it happens and I understand. But it’s just like switching hardware I spoke about a few posts back. It’s just like matter not mattering except the matter you take in your body that I spoke about in the last post. Well this time, it’s drilling down on those nuances and details of cutting the catapult ropes.

There’s various parts going into it, and the catapult-rope cutting itself can’t become an excessively deep rabbit hole. That’s the risk here, and that’s what I’m lighting a fire under my ass now to mitigate. Another metaphor? Okay, solving simultaneous equations. Killing multiple birds with one stone. Getting a 1 + 1 = 3 effect. And to do all this without it becoming too much of a time-sink in its own right. Too much of a money-pit for those who pay for my time. And so we bear down and man up.

And we see if we can’t really and truly cut some catapult ropes right here and right now so that when we go “back into work” on Monday Morning, we’re delivering on promises at a rate and with a quality that makes people wonder whether its really the same person they met coming in. Visualize it. That whole “being a different person” than people thought has been both something people have said about me, so I try to advertise it as much as possible going into a situation so that it’s always an eyes-open fair-deal, and I’ve been shocked by it with the corollary situation of it not being advertised to me, or in fact even deliberately being kept hidden from me until I over-committed. That was Scala. When I realized following up on legit sales-leads was a sort of poison to them, I was like “oh, I get it now.” That was the part they never told me about. No matter what I did, the weakest link in the chain principle would always limit their success.

One of my first real catapult-rope-cutting professional experiences was building an lead-management system, for both generating the leads in the first place (SEO) and disseminating them out tho “value added resellers”, aka Reps or Dealers around the world. By doing so, I was effectively cutting the weakest link out of the chain. What I was doing professionally then to make money amounted to affiliate marketing. But instead of just putting some link on a lead that showed I generated it, I built and ran the whole website. And when I say built it, keep in mind this was like 2000. There were no CMSs or frameworks that could do this job (except maybe Zope, but that would have been too deep a rabbit hole), so I just built it from scratch using Active Server Pages (ASP).

I built the website. I built the CMS the website was built on. I built the lead-capture system and the lead-distribution system. I even built the bill of materials, manufacturing and shipping system. I built the whole thing. Keep in mind, I was partially compensated with a percentage of company gross (not net) revenue. I had dollar-signs in my eyes and documented sabotage to contend with. The hardware was being attacked. Add that to my developing attitude towards hardware because the Amiga computer was going away, and again hopefully you see, really heady times.

Once I had all the underpinnings of the catapult built, I cut the ropes. Leads as I said were not these trust-me affiliate referrals buried in logfiles and click trackers. No, it was a whole bona fide message board system that kept ownership and control of the leads with us, Scala, the software manufacturer. This was before such things as Salesforce were common or NetSuite even existed. The term “CRM” meant mutli-million dollar implementations from Siebel, BAAN, Oracle, Peoplesoft, SAP and the like. Or your Anderson Consulting or Deloittes.

For little ol’ me to be doing this was so beyond belief that crushing the reality of it all came down on my head like a ton of bricks, over and over and over. Yet the leads kept getting generated and kept getting disseminated to people all over the world, some of which I still count as friends today.

And you know what? Sales started going up. Vibrant discussions with prospective customers started happening in this message board system. Did I mention how it worked? Well, a sales-lead couldn’t not be looked-at and either taken as an internal lead or assigned to a dealer. If they batched up, it would turn that person’s name responsible for the pre-sales qualification process red. I took the average lifetime revenue of a typical customer and calculated the potential amount of revenue not responding was costing us. I displayed that number predominately at the top of a color-coded report. It was very dynamic with the numbers going up every day and the amount of red getting bigger and bigger.

I facilitated this financially-oriented report with a precursor to what later became HitTail, which was to expose the real-time flow of search hits coming into the site, with the keywords specifically highlighted in the referrers that scrolled in front of you in real-time, making what looked like a black river of keywords through an ocean of blue. Blue oceans. Getting into the black. Things becoming red. This was a very emotionally charged system.

The catapult ropes were cut. There was basically a purging of some particular departments and an rebuilding of departments with new names and new responsibilities. Lo and behold, the red started diminishing. The attacks on the hardware stopped. The sales started going up. The company started growing again.

And I was a villain. I was a pariah. I had turned myself into the political animal and person to be hated, no matter the truth, because you see even though there was a purging, it wasn’t of the people who made the situation what it was. I was only the poor chaps who believed they were doing what they were supposed to, for who could have seen the undercurrents of demands for this new emerging field of digital signage that nobody really knew what to call, but for the person calling it everything, floating the content out there to see how it did, and was rapidly iterating on it in a righteous feedback loop?

People… people… there I go generalizing again. And probably projecting too, because you know all this motivation of mine always comes from the fear of being an imposter. I’m not a get-rich-quick, luck-made-me sort of person. I’m of what I would call average intelligence. I know I may look like I’m smart, but honestly I’d have been a physicist or neuroscientist by now if I were really smart. I observe. I question my senses. I perform tests.

It takes a damn long time for the route of ensuring you’re not an imposter to pay off for you. In fact, the mistakes you make along the way can be so costly that you never end up saving or having those “material assets” that those who don’t take such routes as me covet so dearly. Because they have limited ways of materializing, actualizing things into existence. When you’re not an imposter, you can materialize and actualize things into existence. Being totally wiped out materially is just not such a setback to you.

So can I make that magic happen again today? Can I make affect the sort of whole company profitability and culture turn-around I used to be able to? No, not without making myself a pariah and a villain again, and that’s not something I’m willing to do without it being my own thing. So what are the catapult ropes I’m getting ready to cut this time going to accomplish?

Helping my kid primarily with their path through life, not making the same mistakes I did getting wrapped up in the addictive feelings of anger, but rather learning how to funnel it into visualized purposes that benefit everyone around you who you have chosen to align yourself with. To side-step those who hate you for it, and to eat well, sleep well, consume information well, produce produce well, and perchance make things a little better for me, those around me and the world at large.

Of course, I could just be hoisting myself by my own petard.