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The Mindset for Success: Wisdom from an 80-Year-Old Rain-Forest Peasant

Gales Point village had no running water, no electricity, and no commercial activity.

At least, that’s how it was when I was growing up in the late 1960’s. Every Easter and every summer holiday, my mother would bulk up on supplies, pack her children up on the river-boat, and we’d chug along for the six-hour ride, 26 miles up the old Belize river. It took us through lush tropical rain-forest, teeming with exotic foliage, disturbing the peaceful symphony that veiled diverse wilderness wildlife.

The chug-chug of the little boat overloaded with sweaty, barefoot villagers, their week’s supplies, and people like my mother and her family who were only going to camp out in a cabin for the school holidays. It was an exciting time for a little 8 years old city-boy.

The passing boat would make a wave that ebbed, then flowed, then flooded the embankments. It so mesmerized me how that sequence kept up for miles, and the lilies had to bow to the wave, kiss the water, get inundated, then settle down again as they disappeared in the distance behind us; only the squawk of some noisy bird or other to tell the tale to the forest.

Priming the Pump

It was fun even when the boats took in too much water.

The villagers seemed rather nonchalant by this, but my mother was especially irritated by the fact that it happened every single time.

But it was fun for me. One day I got to work the pump. Mr. McDonald, the boat owner, was too busy tinkering with his engine, so when I started to work the lever, he just smiled and beamed at me.

But after 3 minutes he saw that I was serious, and no water was leaving the boat. The lever was light and easy but nothing happened no matter how fast I cranked it.

“Boy, you have to prime the pump.”

I’ll never forget those words. I don’t know why certain things never leave you no matter how insignificant it seemed at the time, and no matter how much time passes. Mr. McDonald took a rusting tin can set aside just for that purpose, scooped some water out of the river, and poured it into the top of the pump.

“There! Crank the thing now.”

I started pumping again and immediately noticed the difference. The old pump began coughing and I felt some pressure on the lever. He poured in the rest of the water and told me to pump faster. I did. Then just when my forehead beaded with sweat and I was getting out of breath, I felt full pressure on the lever, and oily water that had settled in the hull gushed out the pump and flowed back in the river to join the boat wave. The scowl disappeared from my mother’s face as she breathed and settled back in the wooden plank that formed her makeshift seat.

I think what struck my little 8-year old brain was how counter-intuitive it seemed. To get water out, you have to pour water in…. it just didn’t make much sense.

But it was the only thing that worked… time and time again.

The Marketer’s Mindset for Success

Every time I’ve had to try something difficult, I’ve remembered that lesson from those days back in Central America in the 60’s. Every time I’d win.

Prime the pump. It’s a mindset for success every target marketer needs.

  • You’ll need it every time you second-guess yourself about the money you’re spending. Remember that course you think will help you build the skills that will take you one step closer to getting it all together for yourself and your family? If you’ve given it some thought and checked out the benefits carefully, you’re not just spending money, you’re investing in your business. You’re priming the pump.
  • You’ll need it every time you consider quitting because you’ve been working your tail off, creating awesome content, and doing it consistently. You’re not wasting your time. The sweat on your brow is not in vain. You’ve primed the pump, but that water doesn’t gush out just yet. Keep going. You’re in this for the long haul. That’s just the way it works.
  • But you’ll also need it when you realize that you can’t just keep creating content and expect traffic to show up miraculously. You have to prime your pump by putting even better content in front of bigger audiences. That’s what guest-blogging is all about. It’s the water you pour in even as you keep cranking the leaver on your own blog. You didn’t buy into the “it’s going to be easy” spiel, now did you?
  • You’ll need it when your efforts actually start to bear fruit, and you see some cash-flow. It’s gratifying, but it takes a little while to get used to how much more pressure you’re suddenly under. It’s not a frantic pace any more, but it does take a harder push to get others to start succeeding… just as it takes when the pump starts to flow. The pressure you feel today will feel like nothing as you get better at motivating others. Flex those muscles. That’s the stuff that leadership is made of. Put your back into it!

The Big Picture

A long time ago, our societies moved away from community. We all ran to the cities in search of work, and it changed many things for the better, but it also changed the deep sense of connectedness that humans need to really prosper.

It may seem a bit strange, but I believe the technology we are using has begun to make time and space less of a big deal. I like the feeling of community it returns to us. It’s different and new, but somehow it reminds me of those days when the plain-talking villager sitting next to me never knew me, but had the right to treat me as one of his own.

Some of us are focused on local markets because of what we do. Others are more global, but it’s essentially the same message! I’m excited about that. Who would have thought? Modern technology is bringing back values and feelings that are so old-school, many of your parents never fully experienced them.

You get the picture, don’t you? We’re all in this together… an online community of target marketers at different stages of growth. It’s important to understand that you’re involved with something far bigger than yourself, but the role you play is important. In a very real sense, you empower the following you bring with you in ways that the biggest brands never did in the past. You give them a voice, and you connect them with a wider network of real people they can learn, grow and change with. It’s an exciting time.

Come! Share with the community. In what ways are YOU priming your pump as you go about your business?

About Rodney Davis

Rodney C. Davis blogs at The Life-Parent, a personal development site for parents. A Social Worker by profession, he combines his passion for parenting education with his interest in writing and content marketing. Download hisfree E-book for parents, and follow him on Facebook andTwitter.


  1. Sue Neal says:

    Rodney – Danny obviously didn’t think it was crap or he would never have published it! And the fact that you recognize your own need to develop and improve suggests you’ll go a long way. Truly great people always know they’ve got something more to learn – so you’re in good company! If only our esteemed political leaders were more willing to admit when they get it wrong, the world wouldn’t be in such a mess!

    I wish you every success on your journey.


  2. Rodney C. Davis says:

    You’re welcome, Constance. I keep finding out quite frequently that I AM getting something wrong. For example, after seeing the crap that I sent him, Danny had to chuckle and explain to me what a “by-line” really was. The key is to have a several good mentors to help you make the correct adjustments along the way. It’s a process!

  3. constance meju says:

    This message is profound and encouraging especially for those of us wondering if we are getting it wrong. Thanks am counting on my investments to yeild bountifully soon.

  4. That’s a great way of describing it. I’ve been in this weird place for a little while now – seeing success, but not as much as I really thought I was going to see. Something has been bugging me about it, and I’ve been dissatisfied with the way things have been going.

    Thankfully I started looking around at the people I look up to in internet marketing, and realized that they have a much higher level of engagement than I’ve been creating. I HAVEN’T been priming the pump! But thanks to blogs like this, I finally have a good idea of how to do that. : )

    Thanks for the cool life story/analogy. That will stick with me for awhile.

  5. Sue Neal says:

    Hi Rodney – I love your pump-priming image – it describes very well what I’m up to at the moment, which might explain why I’m exhausted! The trouble is, when you try to get started in internet marketing, you’re bombarded with messages telling you it can all be done with a few clicks of the mouse. And even if you’re prepared to roll your sleeves up and work up a sweat, it can be hard to find someone who’ll point you in the direction of the pump and show you how it works. After over a year of false starts and blind alleys I feel like I’m finally priming my pump by just learning how to write content and slowly building up a quality site. I know there’s a lot more hard work ahead before the water starts to flow, but I’m fine with that. And I’m very grateful to my current mentor, Brian G Johnson, whose training is helping me figure out how to operate the pump!

    Thanks for a very entertaining and inspiring post.

    Sue Neal

    1. Rodney C. Davis says:

      Hi Sue. I certainly can relate to the false starts. In fact I think I’m still there. But as you mention, taking the time to master our craft as we take a long-term approach to our own success, puts everything in perspective, including those blind alleys. Thanks to our mentors, we keep our heads pointed in the right direction. See you all on the beaches of the world!

  6. Steve Baines says:

    Great post Rodney! I couldn’t agree more with your statement: “Modern technology is bringing back values and feelings that are so old-school…”. It’s all about connection and in order to do that online you do need to prime the pump. Thank you and other online marketing experts (such as Danny) for the continual reminders of this concept.

    Steve Baines

  7. You will know that I am not a child when I say that I remember priming the pump in my grandmother’s kitchen. I was a city girl (a city of 5,000 people), but my grandmother lived in the country. “Coal oil” lamps, a pump at the kitchen sink to pump water from the cistern just outside, and an outhouse down the path from the back door. You message is received, and I know what I need to do about it. How many times have I asked, “Why am I doing this?” You just gave me the answer. Thanks very much.

    1. Rodney C. Davis says:

      Awwwww you just made my day Kathy. All those little things we remember about rural life helps us to reconnect, because the lifestyle is one of the many things that non-city folk have to remind us about community. Ever since the Industrial Revolution, societies have been looking for ways to reconnect again. I really do believe we finally have the opportunity to do so.

  8. Henry Matlock says:

    Rodney, this is a great post. Until recently, I have have been engrained in an old school mentality with regard to marketing (which is why I guess I hated, marketing so and only did it half-heartedly). This story and your analogy are helping me change the way I perceive this vital function in my business. Thanks so much. You have a new follower.

    1. Rodney C. Davis says:

      Thank you so much Henry. We all have an innate need to be a part of something larger than life. I latched on to Danny because he always seemed to be paying attention to details, yet coming from a missionary perspective. It’s reassuring to know that as a community, we are more important than what we sell.

  9. Myrna Greenhut says:

    I love your story-telling approach and your notion of community. It offers up food for
    offers up food for thought and makes it clear that guest-posting is necessary to do.

    1. Rodney C. Davis says:

      Thanks Myrna. It’s one of the things I’m learning to put into practice Myrna. People like Danny and Tea and most of the more successful bloggers keep telling us that our own stories are what sets up apart as we share information that isn’t always new. Your kind words re-affirm that principle.

    2. Rodney C. Davis says:

      There’s always a challenge, isn’t there, Glenda? The technology puts us in direct contact with our fellow “global villagers,” but how do you put a priority on whom to interact with?

  10. Glenda Bonin says:

    Thanks for this thoughtful and informative article. The concept of returning to person-to-person communication via the Internet is something I would like to explore more fully. The shift from what I have experienced in the past, and still do today as a storyteller, seems gets in the way of my ability to embrace the demanding discipline one needs to succeed on the Internet.

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