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From Plumbers Apprentice to $100 Million - 26 Business Lessons from an Expert Marketer (Conor McGregor)

Conor McGregor went from plumbers apprentice to making $100 Million. This is not all that surprising given he is a sports superstar.
What is surprising is that he did this in MMA, a sport that notoriously doesn't pay this kind of money.
In fact, McGregor's net worth is at least 3X that of his TOP peers in the sport. And if you look at the Top 15 highest-paid fighters in the UFC, three are only there because they fought McGregor.
Conor McGregor is surely a controversial character, but there are surely some business lessons to learn from his rise to fame. After studying his career and countless hours of video, here are 26 lessons I've learned from the man himself.

Lesson 1 - Find a Need in the Market that Needs Fulfilling

When Conor moved to a new suburb, he lost his group of friends and had to start over. As the new guy, he got in his share of fights. Without a group of friends to back him up, he needed to learn to fight so he could protect himself. With boxing training, any potential attackers might find themselves getting more than they’ve bargained for and decide to pick on an easier target.
Crumlin Boxing Club fulfilled that need for Conor, and initiated his journey to superstardom.
In business, you need to find a need with your particular audience. Fulfill that need and buyers will come to you.
Let’s take boxing gyms as an example.
In a rough neighborhood, you’ll find “real” boxing gyms. The boxers here come to learn how to truly fight and even compete.
In “upper-class” neighborhoods, you’ll find more cardio based boxing gyms. The goal at these gyms are more for exercise than actual fighting. You won’t see too many sparring sessions at these gyms.
Both models are successful. Understand your market.

Lesson 2 - Find Your Passion. Try new things

McGregor and Tom Egan, while opposites, met in high school both enjoyed MMA. They watched UFC broadcasts on weekends together. It was Egan who sparked Conor’s interest in MMA.
Conor started dabbling in both MMA and boxing, and eventually, left boxing for his true love of MMA. With this focus, Conor went on to dominate the MMA scene.
In business, even the best entrepreneurs can get burnt out. If you look at Elon Musk, Richard Branson, or Steve Jobs, they are all extremely passionate about what they do.
They can and do put in the hours to become the best in their niches. When they speak, you hear the passion and feel drawn to their cause.
It’s hard to be tremendously successful if you hate what you do.

Lesson 3 - Find a Mentor to Increase the Likelihood and Decrease the Time to Success

Although they were around the same age, Tom Egan made it to the UFC first. Conor saw his pal in the UFC, and knew that he had a chance too. The impossible became possible and no longer just a dream.
In business, you need to find a mentor who is ahead of you. Mentors can help you avoid big mistakes.
More importantly, mentors show you what is possible and can create a complete level change in your game.

Lesson 4 - Surround Yourself with People That Want You to Succeed & Will Support You. Stay Loyal to Them.

Dee Devlin has been by Conor’s side since the beginning. She supported him when he was a nobody.
She believed in him.
Dee experienced all of the ups and downs on the path to fame. They grew together.
When you become rich and famous, people try to take advantage of you. It becomes harder to find true friends and romantic partners. Conor avoided this and married the girl who helped him get to where he is now.
Let’s face it, some successful entrepreneurs did not have this support system. They were doubted, laughed at even. This doubt fueled their desire to succeed.
Even so, these entrepreneurs eventually built teams which were so inspired by the entrepreneur’s vision, they eventually do build these supportive relationships.
If you do have this support system, remember who was there supporting you from the beginning. True friendships are an important foundation for happiness as you become more successful.

Lesson 5 - Intense Focus on Your Craft | Decide on What You Want and Put 100% Focus Into It

Not only did Dee Devlin give Conor emotional and moral support, she financially supported him as well. She waited tables so that Conor could focus 100% on his training. She helped him buy healthier foods to fuel his body.
Conor was naturally talented. Adding in 100% focus to his training allowed him to accelerate his skills much quicker.
Most people are juggling too many things. Spending hours playing Call of Duty, late nights drinking, dreaming instead of doing, are taking time away from honing your craft.
The best of the best are practicing. They are making sales calls. In the studio.
With 100% focus and persistence, you will eventually make it.

Lesson 6 - The Law of Attraction | Visualizing Yourself to Greatness

Conor attributes the use of visualization and the Law of Attraction to manifest his way to becoming a champion.
This all sounds kind of crazy, but the same technique has been cited by Jon Jones and Ronda Rousey, plus dozens of athletes and mega celebrities including, Kobe Bryant, Cristiano Ronaldo, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lindsey Vonn, Tony Robbins, Beyonce, Katy Perry, Will Smith, Lady Gaga, and Kanye West,.
What is the Law of Attraction?
The Law of Attraction is a belief that a person’s thoughts and focus bring positive or negative experiences into the person’s life.
Conor’s sister Erin, a bodybuilder and fitness model, recommended he read The Secret, a book on the Law of Attraction. He opted for the DVD version.
"Even when I first watched it, I was like, this is bulls--t," McGregor told Bleacher Report in 2015.
But after watching it, something clicked. Conor and Dee started using it to visualize little things, like getting the front parking spots. After seeing it work, he went on to visualize himself as a champion. In fact, his family credits the moment he watched The Secret, as the birth of Conor McGregor, the superstar.
Stop thinking small. Dream big!

Lesson 7 - Fight IQ | Get a Deep Understanding of Your Competition

In his first UFC post fight interview, he clearly said that he thought Brimmage was emotional and would overthrow his shots. Conor fully understands there is the game before the game.
McGregor’s fight IQ is off the charts.
All fighters watch films of previous fights. Try to find subtle tells. They begin each fight carefully, trying to figure out distance and timing.
Watching Conor, it almost looks intuitive. It seems that he knows his opponents better than they know themselves.
This is most evident after the Aldo fight. Video is released of McGregor practicing the exact sequence that dispatched the 10-year winning streak of the champion.
After the fight, Conor said he saw a subtle tell before the bell rang. Aldo’s right hand was twitching. He knew Aldo was going to unload a big right hand that would set up his left hand knockout punch. Seriously, watch the video below. Mystic Mac believes in the power of visualization.
Know your competition. You can outsmart them. Be faster. Have better customer service. Be good where they suck.

Lesson 8 - Be an entertainer. Stand for Something. Be Polarizing. People Will Love You or Hate You & That’s Not Bad.

Dana White knew Conor McGregor was going to be a star the very first time they met. Why?
Dana said it was his personality. His laugh.
What else is underneath this?
Conor McGregor had a clear focus to become UFC Champion and become rich and famous. He had an outlandish personality. He was witty. He would entertain the masses.
I’ve never met Conor McGregor in person, but from most reports from fans and casuals alike, McGregor is a completely different person outside of the ring.
A nice and pleasant guy.
Is the UFC Conor McGregor just a persona?
Who else had success in the UFC with an outlandish and polarizing personality?
  • Brock Lesnar
  • Chael Sonnen
  • Michael Bisping
  • The Diaz Brothers
The WWE has perfected this character. They call them the heel. Conor McGregor may or may not be the heel, but he definitely is polarizing, and he is very much like a WWE character.
Love him or hate him, every MMA and boxing fan knows Conor McGregor.
Like the greatest before him, McGregor knows that almost any attention is good attention.
Step into the MMA forums or a Facebook discussion, and you will see the Conor McGregor haters out in full force.
But guess what, his haters still buy his PPV fights - to see him lose!
If you want to be a public figure, amplify your message. Take who you are, and multiply that by 3X or 10X.
Sure, you want to be authentic. Don’t be someone you’re not. But take it up a notch.
Be exciting. Be an entertainer.

Lesson 9 - Find Your 1000 True Fans | Cater to Your Base

In his first UFC fight, Conor is seen with an Irish flag draped over his shoulders as he walks to the ring. Before he was a worldwide superstar, Conor worked to become the ambassador of Irish MMA.
In fact, as his stardom grew, it seemed half of Ireland would travel to his fights.
The UFC, having dominated the American MMA market, was ready to move into Europe, and Conor McGregor would carry the entirety of Ireland.
Kevin Kelly, editor at Wired magazine, wrote an essay called “1,000 True Fans.” The essay, a must read, states that all it takes to earn a living as creator is 1,000 true fans who will buy your work.
For McGregor, his fanbase started with his countrymen. As his stardom grew, so did his base of fans.
In business, you have to find your core supporters. The people who will buy your product. The people who will share your content. The people that love your product or service so much they have to tell their friends about it.
Find your Ireland and grow from there.

Lesson 10 - Fighting is a Mind Game | Discover Your Opponent’s Weaknesses

Conor McGregor is a master of getting inside his opponent’s head. Often, his opponents become emotional and abandon their game plan or overextend their shots.f
Many fighters talk trash. Many fighters try to intimidate their opponents. They may even come close to actually fighting during staredowns. But - they don’t completely destroy 8 weeks of game planning the way Conor does.
Before the fight with Dustin Poirier, McGregor said:
Just as he says, he defeats Poirier by KO in the first round. Mystic Mac is born.
Dustin Poirier is an amazing fighter. As a fellow Louisiana boy, he’s one of my favorites.
I don’t believe that Dustin was beat in the ring. He was beaten before the fight.
McGregor baited him. Made him angry. Dustin Poirer didn’t follow his game plan.
Conor’s remarks that this is just a game really sums it all up. After the Dustin Poirier fight, we see McGregor take his head games up a notch. The best example is the fight with Aldo.
Aldo went 10 years without a defeat. Fighters were afraid of him.
After defeating Dennis Siver, McGregor jumps the Octagon fence and goes straight for Aldo, showing he has no fear of the champion.
The pre-fight insults from McGregor are being hurled at unprecedented speed - expletives, racist comments, attacking the entire Brazilian nation. But when McGregor steals Aldo's belt, there is one moment when you see the look of defeat on the Brazilian's face.
McGregor raises his hands as if he already knows he’s the champion. Aldo, unable to do anything in the moment, mentally breaks. Maybe it was just a seed of doubt, but McGregor was in his head.
As a small brand, sometimes going after the big guys can be tough. Study your competitor. Find out what they do well and where they are lacking.
No one is perfect. Focus on your competitor's weaknesses. Fill those gaps. Be nimble. Slowly take market share by doing what they cannot.

Lesson 11 - Differentiation - Discover What Sets You Apart from the Crowd

Conor had big dreams. He was already visualizing himself as a massive star. A rich, popular, double champ at that.
How would the double champ act? What would he look like? How would he speak?
Rumors were going around that McGregor was getting easy fights. Maybe it was true. The UFC was investing in his brand to grow the European market. They didn’t want their golden boy to lose yet.
I cannot confirm this through any research, but I’m sure Conor was aware of the UFC’s plans and his role in them.
Instead of denying the matchmaking, McGregor doubles down and talks about his relationship with Lorenzo (one of the owner’s of the UFC). In fact, they even have a tradition of toasting a shot of whiskey after McGregor’s wins.
McGregor has gone from plumber’s apprentice to UFC star. His Lorenzo comments are positioning him as the employee who is winning and dining with the CEO. Isn’t this the dream of all employees?
Go back to the beginning of Conor’s Instagram. It quickly goes from typical fighter to businessman and luxury everything - clothes, cars, private jets.
He dons his trademark suits.
Conor is no longer just a fighter. He’s the guy from the rough neighborhood that made it.
He’s transcended fighter status. He’s different.
In business, marketing and positioning are the key to market domination.
Your brand, your image, your packaging, your customer service. Are they aligned with your target market?

Lesson 12 - Understand the Machine that Drives Your Industry

McGregor worked hard to build his personal brand. He built his profile, entertaining the masses and winning in spectacular fashion.
Winning fights gets better fights. But have you noticed that some fighters keep winning but aren’t given a main event? Maybe they are passed over for a title shot?
McGregor understood the game. He dove into the machine head on, realizing that putting up big numbers gets you bigger opportunities.
More than anything, the UFC organization is a promotion and hype machine. The UFC’s job is to sell fights, build storylines, and develop fighters.
Conor understands this. He has fully leveraged the UFC’s marketing powers to 10X his brand. He layers his own marketing on top of the UFC’s efforts.
McGregor took chances. He talked smack. He manufactured beef / rivalry. He won his fights in spectacular fashion, and he built his social media empire to engage his fans.
The UFC brass see this. They know his popularity is growing, so they put even more dollars behind him to promote him. He coaches on the Ultimate Fighter Season 22 against Urijah Faber (another very popular fighter). He gets more popular. He pulls bigger numbers. It’s a never ending cycle for now.
With fame and celebrity comes opportunities. Big names pull big money. Bigger purses. Bigger sponsorship deals. And other opportunities outside the ring.
What is the machine behind your industry? Determine how the big boys in your industry are winning.
Is it their sales team? Is it paid ads? Is it media coverage?
Deconstruct the winners and find your way in.

Lesson 13 - When Opportunity Presents Itself, Take Your Shot

When Aldo was injured, Mendes stepped in on 3 week’s notice to fight for the interim title.
Both McGregor and Mendes saw the opportunity, McGregor, an interim belt and Mendes the belt plus a McGregor payday,
While this happens all the time, it is a risk. McGregor was preparing for a different fighter. Mendes didn’t have a full training camp.
In business, opportunities can present themselves at any time. It is up to you to see them and capitalize on them.
“If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes - then learn how to do it later.” - Richard Branson

Lesson 14 - Precision Beats Power, Timing Beats Speed

A fighter studies their opponent to understand their movement, any tells, and potential holes in their game. Conor does this exceptionally well.
In my first few sparring sessions, my biggest surprise was how fast the more advanced fighter's were. Not their hand speed. It was how fast their mind worked. They saw my punches coming almost before I threw them. They were able to move out of the way and counter with ease. They saw something I didn't see.
A fighter with a high fight IQ has:
  • Precision
  • Timing
  • Efficiency
  • Defense
So far, Conor's only hole is his ground game. Standing up, he has the upper hand. After the Aldo fight, he said this:
This quote is a great way to think about business.
Precision beats power. Oftentimes, you are competing with the big boys, the entrenched competitors, or the huge multinational corporation. They have power.
A smaller business can compete with precision. You can serve the customer better. You can offer a more personalized service. You can serve in a profitable capacity, that the big boys are ignoring because it is too small for them. Be precise.
Timing beats speed. Being first to market can help you get first crack at market share, maybe even give you time to build a moat. Yet, timing beats speed. Sometimes it is better to let the first mover establish a market before moving in. You’ll save all the cost of developing the market, and you can learn from their mistakes. Time the market.

Lesson 15 - See the Opportunity & Ask for What You Want

At this point, Conor McGregor basically gets whatever fight he wants. However, Lesson 15 flips the script. This isn’t about McGregor. It is about Nate Diaz.
After Nate Diaz defeated Michael Johnson at UFC Fox 17, he stepped up to the mic and called out Conor McGregor in an expletive filled rant.
This takes us back to another infamous McGregor press conference with reference to “Red Panty Night.”
Conor McGregor brings in huge paydays, and he says a fight with him is cause for celebration. Fighters will make more fighting him than any other fighter on the roster.
Diaz understood this. He saw the opportunity. And he asked for it.
Diaz’s first fight with Conor McGregor earned him 4X what he made for his previous second highest grossing fight.
The second fight went on to earn him more in one night than he made his entire UFC career.
Then, his rise in popularity has earned him a noticeable bump in his post McGregor fights.
What can we learn from this? Too many people can spot the opportunity, but don’t have the balls to go for it.
Ask for the meeting.
Ask for the sale.
“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. - Wayne Gretzky

Lesson 16 - Rivalries are Opportunities

Nate Diaz was no match for Conor McGregor’s verbal sparring as seen in several pre-fight interviews. But Nate Diaz has his own Stockton “Gangsta” style of dealing with rivalries that fans love.
After Conor shows up 30 minutes late, Diaz walks out. Diaz’s team throws a water bottle. Things get out of hand.
Rivalries can be great marketing opportunities. This clash no doubt sold more PPV’s.
Take a look at Wendy’s taking a shot at McDonald’s on Twitter.
Look at the number of Retweets. Holy crap.
Have some fun. Maybe a rivalry is just the PR stunt you need.

Lesson 17 - Do Not Succumb to Failure. Learn from Your Mistakes. Pivot.

Mcgregor lost to Diaz in their first matchup by submission. Conor analyzed his mistakes in training and particularly his diet.
He put these learnings to use in their second matchup.
Conor came back and won their second fight by decision, in a grueling 5 round matchup.
In business, we experience failures just like in life. Markets change, regulations change, and unprecedented events such as Covid can derail our plans.
You need to be okay with failure. But don’t let a failure go to waste.
Analyze it. See what when wrong. Find out how you could have changed things. Make a plan not to make that mistake again.
Maybe you need to pivot. Maybe you just need to make some tweaks. Either way, a failure can make your business stronger, if you implement the changes necessary to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.

Lesson 18 - Make History | Change the Game

In the lead up to the fight with Alvarez, a promo is released, and we hear Conor Mcgregor say:
There has not been a UFC champion in two weight classes at the same time. McGregor was gunning to go down as the first in the UFC record books.
At the same time, he would make history as headlining the first MMA fight in Madison Square Gardens. It was truly a historic moment in the world of MMA.
Riches, fame. It means nothing in the end.
But, history?
And just like the story of Roger Bannister and the four-minute mile, Conor opened up the door for other champ champs - Daniel Cormier, Amanda Nunes, and Henry Cejudo.
Too many entrepreneurs are doing “me-too” business. Chasing successful businesses in hopes of making some cash.
The true game changers are going big. Trying to change history.
Truly think about what you can do to change the industry, to innovate, to do the impossible.

Lesson 19 - Leverage Other People’s Audiences

Back in 2015, Conor McGregor and Urijah Faber were announced as coaches on the Ultimate Fighter reality show contest.
The same year, video surfaced of a sparring session between Game of Throne’s “The Mountain”
Each of these appearances allowed Conor to utilize other people’s audiences (OPA) to gain additional fans outside of his current fan base.
The UFC’s Ultimate Fighter series brought in the series’ fans plus fans of Urijah that may not have been fans of Conor and gave them a chance to get to know him over multiple exposures (episodes).
The playful sparring session with The Mountain allowed Conor to gain exposure to the Game of Throne’s audience who followed Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson. He’s appeared on the cover of GQ and appeared on the cover of Call of Duty Infinite Warfare.,
McGregor has also had appearances on Conan O’brien’s Late Night and has sung pub songs with Jimmy Fallon.
Speaking of Conan, did you know 23 celebrities own shares in the UFC? Here they are:
  • Ben Affleck
  • Michael Bay
  • Tom Brady
  • Rob Dyrdek
  • Guy Fieri
  • Flea
  • Abel “The Weeknd” Tesfaye
  • Calvin Harris
  • Anthony Kiedis
  • Jimmy Kimmel
  • Robert Kraft
  • Adam Levine
  • Li Na
  • LL Cool J
  • Cam Newton
  • Conan O’Brien
  • Trey Parker
  • Tyler Perry
  • Maria Sharapova
  • Sylvester Stallone
  • Mark Wahlberg
  • Serena Williams
  • Venus Williams
Now this is a genius move by the UFC. By allowing celebrities to own a piece of the UFC, the UFC knows that they will promote the business to their following, bringing in additional fans that would not normally be watching.
McGregor’s biggest example of leveraging other people’s audiences is his crossover fight with Mayweather. Mayweather is boxing’s greatest fighter ever. Not only does Mayweather have a huge audience, this fight would introduce Conor McGregor to the entire boxing audience.
No matter your industry, you need to know where your customers are. Who has a similar pool of leads in their audience?
Partner with another complimentary company that shares your audience.
Get a story written about you and your company in your industry’s magazine.
Go where the fish are, but fish with dynamite.

Lesson 20 - Know Your Numbers | What is the Most Profitable Thing in Your Business?

At this point, Conor McGregor is the highest paid fighter in UFC history.
Yet, he is making peanuts compared to the big names in boxing.
Conor realizes this and guns for the biggest name in boxing, Floyd Mayweather. If he can make this happen, it will be the biggest payday in his career.
Similarly, you need to understand your own numbers. Where is the money?
What product lines are the most profitable? What are the least?
Make decisions based on numbers.

Lesson 21 - Negotiating Like a Pro | Keep it Win-Win, and Give to Get

How do you get the biggest name in boxing, arguably the best boxer to ever step into the ring, to agree to a fight with an MMA fighter who has never professionally boxed?
You need to understand what the other party wants. Not just on the surface. What they truly want.
What would Mayweather possibly want?
  1. Money - Mayweather likes to spend money and is rumored to have financial troubles.
  2. Vanity - Mayweather wants to keep his undefeated record untarnished.
  3. Cash Flow - Mayweather wants big fights. At 43, the window of opportunity is slowly closing.
When Mayweather fought Pacquiao, the purse was split $180 million for Mayweather and $120 million for Pacquiao, according to Kurt Badenhausen.
Big number for sure. What could Conor offer? He has a big name, but he’s not Manny Pacquiao.
Money: Conor offers a better split of revenues. Reportedly, Mayweather took in $500 million with Conor only taking $100 million.
Vanity: On paper, this fight should be the least risk for Mayweather. Sure, Conor has a monster left hand, but he’s not a professional boxer. Mayweather believes he will retain his record.
Cash Flow: McGregor offers to promote the hell out of this fight. With Mayweather believing he has no chance of losing, he also retains his record, assuring he can continue to get big money fights.
Let’s face it. Conor couldn’t lose. Losing to Mayweather in a boxing match doesn’t hurt his brand at all, and he comes away $100 million dollars richer and an even bigger brand.
The secret to negotiating is to have a deep understanding of what the other party wants.
Make the deal win-win. If the other party has massive leverage or if the deal could be a game changer for you or your business, don’t be afraid to give them more.

Lesson 22 - Spend More Time on Promotion

MMA training takes a considerable amount of time.
MMA fighters train in multiple disciplines, lift weights, and do a ton of cardio. They also need time to sleep and recover.
With all this training, how do you even have time to promote the fight?
Still McGregor has taken time to make appearances, go on press tours, television, podcasts, and more.
A lot of fighters hate promoting. It takes time away from the things they need to do to prepare for a fight.
No matter how hard it is, promotion is key to becoming a big name in the sport.
This is great advice, especially for creatives. Creatives spend so much time producing work. It seems productive, but you need to spend equal time promoting.

Lesson 23 - Diversify | You Need Multiple Revenue Streams

As in most professional sports, MMA fighters take a brutal toll on their bodies. It is hard to determine the average fighter’s career length, but the 9-year rule, stating that fighter’s start to decline around the 9-year mark, is a good indicator.
This means that most fighters only have 10 years to maximize their career earnings in the sport.
McGregor has done this through sponsorships:
  • Burger King
  • Beats by Dre
  • Monster Energy
  • David August
  • BSN
  • Anheuser-Busch
  • HiSmile
  • Betsafe
He has a residency deal with the Wynn Las Vegas for his post fight after parties.
He owns digital properties selling workouts (McGregor FAST Program), emojis (MacMoji App), the MacTalk App, and the everything McGregor and MMA website, the Mac Life. All of these generate additional revenue.
Then like a true Irishman, he started his own line of whiskey, Proper 12, just in time before the biggest fight of his MMA career against Khabib Nurmagomedov. In a genius move, McGregor sponsored his own UFC fight to promote his new whiskey. The brand has reportedly brought in $1 billion in sales in its first year.
Changing markets, the economy, or a pandemic can all change everything in an instant. It is important to have multiple revenue streams to both maximize revenue generation opportunities and safeguard you from a change in circumstances such as a lay-off.
Side Hustles are becoming more and more popular!

Lesson 24 - There is No Such Thing as Bad Publicity

Conor McGregor and his team’s bus incident ignited a flurry of bad press. A string of bad publicity follows. Let's take a quick look at the Google trends for Conor Mcgregor searches over time:
There are 12 peaks indicating high searches:
  1. Becomes Cage Warriors Double Champ (& tweeted by Joe Rogan)
  2. McGregor vs Mendes (& interviewed on Conan)
  3. McGregor vs. Aldo
  4. McGregor vs. Diaz I
  5. McGregor vs. Diaz II
  6. McGregor vs. Alvarez
  7. McGregor vs. Mayweather
  8. McGregor Bus Incident
  9. McGregor vs. Khabib
  10. Accusation of Sexual Assault
  11. Mcgregor Bar Fight
  12. Mcgregor vs. Cerrone
Numbers 8, 10, & 11 are all bad press.
But an old saying by P.T. Barnum rang true.
The fight with Khabib went on to become the biggest fight in UFC history.
Now the saying isn’t 100% true, we’ve all seen bad press sink a company, but let’s be real, this is the fight game. The fans secretly loved it. Come on, he’s a fighter. We expect this.
Bad Publicity can actually help smaller brands, as it still gets eyeballs on the product, service, or person. The strategy definitely has some risks, but we’ve seen some major brands built with bad press (think Kim K’s sex tape).
However, larger brands can lose a lot of business with bad press.

Lesson 25 - Forward Momentum Propels You Forward | Choose Your Battles Wisely

After a long lay-off between the Khabib defeat, Conor needs to win a big fight to get back in title contention.
Donald Cerrone is a great matchup. It is a fight he is expected to win as he is a -300 favorite according to oddsmakers. Plus, Cerrone is one of the most entertaining fighters to watch with his stand and bang style.
McGregor’s quick win over Donald Cerrone provides him with forward momentum once again and vaults him right back into title contention.
Look for little wins. Forward momentum propels you forward, boosts your confidence, and reinvigorates your motivation.
Set goals. Blast them. Keep moving forward.

Lesson 26 - Be Willing to Walk Away if the Deal Isn’t Right

At this point, McGregor wants a big fight.
A rematch with Khabib, a contender’s fight against Gaethje, or a spectacle with either a Diaz trilogy or the BMF holder, Masvidal.
No other fights really make sense right now.
Maybe Conor will take a rematch with Floyd Mayweather or perhaps the talks about Pacquiao are true. Who knows.
Without the right match on the table, Conor decides to sit on the sideline until the right deal is presented.
Sometimes it is better to walk away and keep your stock high than to take a bad deal.

Bonus Lesson 1 - Take Care of Your Body & Mind

As an elite athlete, surely Conor McGregor is in great shape. Yet, it was a story about Lebron James that changed his entire outlook on training and mindset.
Lebron reportedly has a cadre of trainers, biomechanists, massage therapists, nutritionists, and personal chefs that have all contributed to his longevity in the sport. He does cryotherapy and spends time in the hyperbaric chamber. It was even reported that Lebron took ballet classes to help with his footwork.
He spends roughly $1.5 million a year on his body.
After McGregor read this, he knew he had to invest in his own body.
It seems he also worked with Tony Robbins, the ultimate life coach, to help with his mental state.
Work, Sleep, Family, Fitness, or Friends. Choose three.
The above is a running joke in the startup world. It is hard to juggle everything when you’re busy trying to change the world.
Physical fitness and mental health are extremely important. Keep in shape and you’ll be more productive, have more energy, and be able to think more clearly.

Bonus Lesson 2 - Develop Unbreakable Confidence

Conor McGregor exudes confidence. While all professional athletes share this trait, Conor’s confidence is off the charts even for professional athlete standards.
A lot of people mistake McGregor’s confidence for arrogance. Understandably so.
Yet, Conor believes what he is saying.
I’ve watched countless hours of pre-fight interviews of both Conor and other fighters. Conor McGregor has absolute certainty he is going to win.
Other fighters also believe they are going to win. However, you can see faint tells, twitches, micro expressions, or even vocal uncertainties in their responses. Subconsciously, somewhere deep down, the fighter has doubts. Doubts in themselves and doubts in their abilities.
This is not evident anywhere in Conor McGregor’s UFC career. This does put the Tony Robbins coaching into perspective. DId Conor need help getting his confidence back after he was defeated by Khabib? Tony Robbins would be the guy to get your mojo back!
I believe there are two main drivers to success in business:
  1. Believing in yourself
  2. Having something to prove
Confidence gets you on the road to success. If you believe in yourself, you’ll be willing to take the chance at greatness.
On the flip side of the coin, there is one group of people with low confidence that also have the ability to make it big - someone who is determined to prove their worth. These people are so determined to be successful their lack of confidence does not scare them away. Slowly, they become confident along the way.

Bonus Lesson 3 - Be Grateful

The one thing that surprised me in the research for this article was how grateful he is for everything he has accomplished.
Conor Mcgregor, an international sports legend with $100+ million dollars. A man that could have anything he wants. And he is truly grateful for his success.
No matter your success in life, this one is the key. No amount of money will ever make you happy. But gratitude - for your family, your friends, your lifestyle, for every little positive thing in your life that you take for granted, that is the real key to success and happiness.
If you enjoyed this, the full article can be found here.
submitted by PaulChittenden to EntrepreneurRideAlong

[Super Long Summary Post] "The Investigation Unit Within the Painting" (Short Story by Kazushige Nojima)

A short story that touches upon Aerith's childhood - included in the FF7R World Preview Book.
I opted to post a summary instead of a translation as this book is coming out in English in September - most likely with this story fully translated. (I do have a PDF of my amateur translation, so if anyone wants it please message me)
Please excuse the spelling of some of the names - I'm going by phonetic spelling based on the Katakana written and there's a high chance there's a different way that some names are spelled. (Think back on OG issues like "Aerith and Aeris" or "Vicks and Biggs" :P)

The Investigation Unit Within the Painting

Dr. Donovan of Mideel
The unnamed narrator arrives via helicopter to the island village of Mideel – a location unique for the fact that the Lifestream flows so close to the surface here. The narrator knows of the concept of the Lifestream from the Study of the Planet – when a person dies, their body returns to the earth, while their soul returns to the Planet. That soul then becomes a part of the flow and travels the world, eventually residing in a new life form. However, modern people have learned of a new way to harness the Lifestream into nothing more than a source of energy. Once a soul has been used up as energy, it can no longer return to the planet and is expended.
The one who taught the young man about the Study of the Planet was a woman named Ilfana – a beautiful woman whom he knew briefly in his youth at the age of nine... 15 years ago. She had taught him that everyone is connected with the Planet – that they all essentially share a part of a large, single soul – and therefore instead of fighting, they should learn to be getting along, as the Planet would be much more happy that way. This is how Ilfana usually quelled any arguments between the narrator and her daughter, Aerith.
It was a time that to this day, fills the narrator’s heart with guilt.
The narrator speaks to Dr. Donovan at the clinic in Mideel. Producing a photograph of a man named Gheddi Back, the narrator – a Shinra Infantryman - explains to the doctor that Gheddi had supposedly come to the island of Mideel 15 years ago and requests that the doctor search through his records for any information. Ultimately, after having gone through 20 years of records, the doctor is unable to find any trace of information on the man named Gheddi Back. The doctor explains that there is a chance that this person never had any need to come to the clinic while in Mideel and thus there were no medical records and suggests that the infantryman check with other villagers instead.
The doctor also gives the narrator one more key piece of information – while there was no record of a man named Gheddi Back, another young man who was not a resident of the island – was noted to have been a patient at the clinic... 15 years ago. This young man’s name was Glenn Reiner, and he too was a Shinra Infantryman. The narrator requests to see Glenn Reiner’s records – and with affirmation from the doctor that this passing of information was to be kept a secret – he learns that Glenn Reiner had been found by a villager 15 years ago, roaming in a nearby forest. They were able to identify him by the Shinra Military ID he carried. His medical records indicated that he suffered from a torn muscle in his right ankle and had Mako Poisoning – Mid Level 3rd Grade.
With severe cognitive issues, Glenn Reiner continued to be under the care of the Mideel Clinic for half a month before a delivery helicopter was able to make the journey and return him to Midgar. The discharge paper in the records indicated the name of the pilot was Jack Klein.
Before leaving Mideel, the narrator attempts to see if villagers had any further information – showing them his photograph of Gheddi Back with no results. The villager who had found Glenn Reiner in the forest had long since passed away. 15 years is a long time, after all – and the young 9 year old boy was now 24 years old and about to become a father.
The narrator returns to Midgar, and uses money and connections to gather further information: Glenn Reiner was reported to have died in action 15 years ago during the Wutai War... a mere 3 days after returning to Midgar from Mideel. Clearly seeing that something was not right, the narrator continues in his relentless pursuit for answers and the connection between the man he was searching for, Gheddi Back, and Glenn Reiner.

Jack Klein of Sector 7
The narrator was easily able to locate Jack Klein, the pilot who had delivered Glenn Reiner back to Midgar. His own pilot who had taken him to Mideel had known about Jack and had even given the narrator advice on how best to persuade Jack to talk.
Visiting the now aged pilot in his apartment in Sector 7, the narrator was able to hear the reluctant drunkard’s story by producing a gift of a bottle of wine. The old pilot soon began to explain that back then it was much more common to hear about people suffering from Mako Poisoning than it was today, merely because people back then lacked the knowledge to deal with Mako. A common way to deal with people suffering Mako Poisoning was to present them to the White Coats of the Shinra Scientific Research Department – which came with the added benefits of receiving hush money. The Research Department explained it as a means of doing research into the cure for Mako Poisoning.
Jack Klein then proceeds to recall how he had picked up Glenn Reiner from Mideel – the young man had been a prime example of Mako Poisoning: wobbling on his feet like a drunkard, and was a completely different person from how he was when the pilot had initially dropped him off at Mideel.
The narrator is surprised to learn that Jack had also been the one to have taken Glenn to Mideel in the first place. He learns from the pilot about a Special Task Force of Location Investigators who were active for a short period of time 15 years ago. The Force operated directly under President Shinra’s orders – and recruitment was open to anyone. Upon selection to the Force, one was immediately promoted, and successful missions were rewarded with unimaginable bounty. The counter side were the risks – a high probability of getting Mako Poisoning. The reason was because the Location Investigation Unit’s main objective was the search for locations that had a natural supply of Mako.
Curiously, the only aid the Unit was given in their search was a photograph... a photograph of a DRAWING. Jack comments that there was a rumour that a strange psychic had drawn it – and that the photographs of the Drawings always included Coordinates on the back. These coordinates didn’t actually particularly lead a person to the location depicted in the drawing – but were more like educated guesses.
Jack’s deal was that he never made land in these trips, for he feared being attacked by Monsters and Wutai warriors. The Investigation Unit members always parachuted to their location, with instructions that they had 10 days to search the area before another pilot would come to retrieve them. In many cases the Investigation Unit members never returned from their mission – and there was never any news that a so-called treasure trove of Mako was ever located. Jack had figured most had been killed my monsters.
The narrator asks Jack what drawing, or rather photograph, Glenn had been using and the pilot explains that it was his photograph in particular that made Glenn Reiner stick to his mind, as they had had an argument as to the location in the photograph. To Jack, the location’s barren appearance made it clear that is was Cosmo Canyon.
Jack had two members of the Unit on his helicopter that day – one whose coordinates were somewhere near Condor Fort, and Glenn who was supposed to go to Cosmo Canyon. However after dropping off the other Unit member, Jack recalls that Glenn had suddenly requested to be taken to Mideel and had paid him 10,000 gil.
As it hadn’t been Jack’s job to pick up Investigation Unit members, he soon forgot about Glenn and continued on his regular job of making deliveries around the world. Half a month later when he saw Glenn at Mideel – he had been surprised. First of all, Glenn’s jump from the plane had been so badly performed that the pilot was sure he had had a horrible landing and had died. Still, even with Mako Poisoning, the young man was alive – and there was at least a chance things would turn out. In the end, there was no denying that Jack had ultimately sold Glenn to the Scientific Research Department.
The narrator shows a photograph of a young man of around 25 wearing a White Lab Coat and asks the pilot if he knew this man. The pilot confirms that the young man in the picture was Glenn Reiner, and seeing the White Coat, confirmed his suspicions that he had not been in the military.
Leaving Jack’s home, the narrator looks at the photograph he had just been showing the pilot – the photo was actually a picture of Gheddi Back in his usual White Coat attire, with the 9 year old narrator standing by his side.

Sylvina Kelly of Sector 7
Sylvina asks him about his progress in his pursuit for answers and is genuinely interested in hearing his story. Placing his hand on her pregnant belly, the narrator reaffirms his goal to clear up his past for the sake of his lover and their unborn child. Sylvina reminds the narrator of Aerith – or how he imagined a grown-up Aerith would’ve looked like.

15 years ago – Aerith of the Shinra Building
Aerith was a child who could usually endure many things with a smile. Including stubbing her toe after running around in her cramped room while playing with the narrator. She would endure such pain without a single cry – but the narrator could always tell as her ever present smile would always fade... it was a face he had often seen when Aerith’s mother, Ilfana, was late in returning back to their room.
This day had been one such occasion when the narrator had seen Aerith actually cry out loud.
Aerith yells at Gheddi Back that she hates him – for hurting her mother. Ilfana is seen with a bloodstained bandage around her wrist. Ilfana explains that it was not Gheddi – but Aerith is adamant as it is always Gheddi who takes Ilfana away. The narrator explains to her that even if Gheddi wasn’t the one, someone else would just do the same in his place. Aerith proceeds to throw a tantrum and buries her face in a pillow on the sofa.
The narrator’s mother – charged with looking after Ilfana and her young daughter - is about to leave for the day, but offers to stay to look after Ilfana’s wound if she needs care. Ilfana politely declines and assures her that she is alright. As the narrator and his mother leave, he turns to see Aerith looking at him before she promptly sticks out her tongue at him. The narrator wondered how such a cute girl could exist in this world – and looking back to that time, she was no doubt his first crush.
Gheddi Back, like the narrator’s mother, was not a scientist but a regular staff member in the Research Department – although he always wore a White Coat. It was his job to check all of the people walking in and out of the department – and it was also his job to accompany Ilfana when she would leave her room to go to the Research Lab. The narrator recalls that Gheddi was visibly bothered that Aerith seemed to hate him. Together, Gheddi and the narrator’s mother worried about the suffering Ilfana seems to have been enduring lately – but both know they are powerless in even learning the nature of the help Ilfana is giving the Research Department.

Joanne Lyu of the Barracks
An idea had come to the narrator’s mind and he set out to see Jack Klein once again. Armed with cash this time (as the liquor shop had yet to open at such an early time), the narrator managed to get some additional info – namely, the name of the other Unit member who had accompanied Gheddi Back while he was pretending to be Glenn Reiner. Her name was Joanne Lyu, and gathering further info from Shinra Headquarters, the narrator learned that she lived in the army Barracks reserved for executive offices.
She was a small woman, around 40 years old with a muscular build, and seemed to be the type who was strict not only on herself but others as well. She is apprehensive of the narrator when he visits her – questioning whether he’s from the Turks. The narrator, seeing that he too would have to explain his situation to her in order to get information from her, decides to tell her everything except about Ilfana and Aerith. The subject of the MotheDaughter Ancients was something that had become taboo to him – mainly because his mother had forbade him to speak of it. He had not even told Sylvinia about them.
The narrator explains to Joanne that it was a personal investigation – that he had wanted to resolve something before the birth of his child. A man named Glenn Reiner who he had been indebted to as a child had passed away 15 years ago. He merely wanted to find out what had happened to him.
He presents the photograph of Gheddi Back to Joanne and explains that this is Glenn Reiner from 15 years ago. The woman shows no reaction to this, even as the narrator asks if Joanne knew Glenn Reiner. Revealing a but more of what he knew, the narrator begins to explain the situation with the Special Task Force of Location Investigators from 15 years ago – how Glenn Reiner had joined this force and together with the Pilot and --- to which Joanne cuts him off, confirming that it was she who was also with them.
The narrator goes on to say that the pilot had mentioned that she and Glenn Reiner had seemed very friendly with each other. Joanne then perceptively figures out that the narrator is the 9 year old boy in the picture and that he must know that the man in the picture is Gheddi, not Glenn.
As the two square off, wondering how much the other knows, a loud bang is heard against the wall towards the back of the room. The loud noise continues and Joanne quietly tells “Lilisa” to be quiet.
The name resonates sharply with the narrator – and in searching his memories for that name, a memory he had buried deep in the back of his mind rushes back in full colour.

Lilisa within the Memory
That day he had been with Aerith in her room. His mother was not with them as a creature had escaped from the Research Lab and all personnel had been dispatched to aid in the search.
Aerith was slumped over, tired from drawing, and the narrator was growing weary of her complaining. He tells her that Gheddi will do something about it and to patiently wait. It had been 2 weeks since Aerith had given Gheddi a “Special Drawing” and nothing had happened other than Gheddi seemingly having disappeared.
The door opens and a young woman in a White Coat enters asking Aerith if she had finished her drawing. The narrator interjects on Aerith’s behalf, telling the woman that Aerith’s drawings aren’t simple and she’s doing all that she can – and to not rush her. Annoyed, the woman proceeds further into the room, drawing the narrator’s alarm at the open door when they are in the midst of dealing with an escaped test subject.
Before the narrator can finish yelling at the woman to close the door, a black blur bursts through the door – a woman wearing a black robe surveys the room before fixing her eyes on Aerith, pouncing on the little girl. Screaming as she strangles the little girl, the woman in black recognizes Aerith for who she is and blames her for “him” being dead – and that many others had died because of her drawings.
Frozen with fear and unable to move, the narrator could only watch as the black robed woman menacingly loomed over the 7 year old girl, strangling her. The White Coated woman quickly dissolves the situation, plunging a needle into the black robed woman’s neck and incapacitating her. Aerith is unable to do more than stare fearfully at the narrator, who averts his eyes from her and looks down at the unconscious woman in black – he notes the black numbers on her ankle.... “24”. The White Coat woman calls for security – that she has “Lilisa” and for someone to quickly come get her.
The narrator is brought back to reality with the sound of another large bang. Joanne tells Lilisa to be quiet once again, before going on to explain that she and Lilisa had enlisted in the army at the same time at the age of 19. She explains to the narrator that Lilisa has Mako Poisoning – and that she had been under the care of the Scientific Research Department, but her condition hadn’t changed in 15 years. Realizing that it might be better for someone else to know of the truth she held, Joanne explains that there are a lot of things that she herself has yet to understand – but perhaps the narrator may have answers for her as well.
Joanne Lyu, Lilisa Meg and Glenn Reiner had all enlisted in the army at the same time and had spent much of their preliminary years in the military together. They had all grown up in the Slums – and when a high ranking officer had tried to blame Lilisa’s failings on the fact that she had come from the Slums, both Joanne and Glenn had stood up on Lilisa’s behalf, bringing the three of them closer together – and along with Gheddi Back who as a friend of Glenn’s from back in the days of the Slums, they would always find time to gather together, to eat and to talk about their dreams.
While Joanne, Glenn and even Gheddi had shown great ambition in their goals, Lilisa was the only one who was satisfied with merely becoming a military personnel. To her, life was good as long as good and a place to sleep was provided. She had grown up in a particularly poor household, even by Slum standards.
When Joanne first learned about the Special Location Investigation Unit, she jumped at the opportunity despite some hesitancy regarding the extreme high risks the job involved – a hesitancy that was quickly dissolved by her burning ambition. When she had arrived to apply, Glenn had already been there – laughing at how each had been so secretive. They were both recruited and they spent their days before deployment, spending time together along with Gheddi and Lilisa.
Along with news of deployment happening the next day, the recruits were also given a meeting with President Shinra himself who explained the nature of their task – something that gave them all a feeling of being a part of something big that would change the future of the world. Members of the Turks arrived, giving the recruits photographs of a drawing of scenery. On the back were coordinates. They were given instructions about taking a helicopter to the coordinates and parachuting down, after which they had 10 days to search for the location in the photograph before being picked up for return.
If they found the location, they were given 50% of the payment. If the land was well suited for a Mako Reactor to be built, 100% of the payment would be given. If the location proved to be literal treasure trove of Mako energy of which the President could only dream of, 220% payment would be given – an amount which one would never have to work another day in their life. For the recruits, even if payment was 0%, there wasn’t one person who didn’t wish to make the attempt. The words the President had given them had ignited a passion in their hearts that robbed them of the ability to make proper judgment.
It was Lilisa’s idea to hold a party for Joanne and Reiner. She spent her day off preparing several homemade dishes. Like a birthday party, drinks were plenty and soon the four of them were drunk. The atmosphere changed as Lilisa began to cry in a drunken stupor. She begged Glenn not to go as she had a bad feeling about the assignment. She professed her love to him to the surprise of both Joanne and Glenn himself. Glenn reassures her that they’ll come back soon, looking at Joanne and Gheddi for help.
Joanne, annoyed with Lilisa, leaves the room telling them she needs some air. Joanne felt that Lilisa had no right to hold back people who were trying to achieve their dreams. Joanne had a moment to collect her thoughts out in the hall of the barracks when a desperate cry made her rush back to the room.
Gheddi was laying on the floor, convulsing. Worrying about the other two inside the room but unable to leave Gheddi, Joanne sought help from her neighbour who quickly left to get a doctor. Going into the room, Joanne found Glenn and Lilisa, also convulsing while lying in a pool of their own vomit. A weak Gheddi manages to tell Joanne that Lilisa seemed to have put something in their food before he passes out. A doctor arrives soon after and examines them. He calls the Scientific Research Department and soon after a man and woman in White Coats arrived. The three are loaded onto stretchers and taken away, while the White Coats remained to examine the drinks, food and even the vomit, no doubt looking for traces of drugs or poison.
Soon after, the man in the White Coat confirms that there was Mako present. For more than an hour Joanne was subject to intense questioning by both the White Coats and her superiors who had arrived after hearing the commotion. No one would tell her the condition of Glenn or her friends. Joanne recalled Gheddi’s words and she comes to the understanding that Lilisa, in a desperate attempt to prevent Glenn from leaving, had possibly put something in the food. She questioned whether Lilisa was that type of person – but it was difficult to say, as perhaps love could’ve changed her.
Late that night Gheddi returned – he had been given medication that seemed to have helped immensely. While he still felt off, Gheddi figures that he might not have been affected as much. Glenn and Lilisa on the other hand, do not seem to be responding to anything and remain unstable. Upon Joanne’s questioning, Gheddi explains what had happened in the moments she had left the room.
A buzzer on the oven had gone off indicating the casserole Lilisa had been making was ready. She ignored it and tried to continue talking to Glenn who interrupted her saying he wanted to eat – he had wanted to change the subject. Gheddi ended up taking the casserole out and bringing it to the table where both Glenn and Lilisa began to eat the still bubbling dish. Gheddi, in turn waited for his portion to cool off before eating – and it was perhaps for that reason that his condition wasn’t as bad for he had less time to eat the food. Joanne asks him if he’s certain it was the food, to which Gheddi replies that it was the only thing that Joanne hadn’t eaten as well.

Joanne Lyu of the Barracks
Back in the present, Joanne stops to ask the narrator if he knew about Mako Waste – to which he replies ‘yes’ - that it was the remnant of Mako that wasn’t properly burned off. A highly poisonous substance that commonly existed within machinery. Lilisa – had worked in the automotive department of the company. Her work consisted of inspection and repair.
Realizing that both Joanne and Gheddi would’ve left the following morning for the mission, the narrator asks her how Gheddi had ended up joining the Special Location Investigation Unit. Joanne knew it was a clear breach of orders – and if the truth came out in the open, even now 15 years later, severe penalties would have to be faced. If she took the risk of telling the narrator everything – perhaps he too would have answers to the questions she held for a long time. The narrator promises to her that he will tell her everything he knew.
She explains that Gheddi was the one who had stated he wanted to fulfill Glenn’s dream. He managed to borrow Glenn’s ID and he asked Joanne to help him stand in for Glenn. Luckily, Glenn’s belongings hadn’t been confiscated, and among his belongings was the photograph of the location he was supposed to find.
Joanne and Gheddi successfully pulled off their plan and as they sat in the helicopter operated by Jack Klein, Joanned did her best to give Gheddi all of the basic instructions for parachuting. Gheddi’s knowledge had only come from books, but she was moved by the look of determination in his eyes.
Joanne goes on to explain that she had successfully parachuted – but does not remember much about what had happened afterwards. The narrator tells Joanne all that he had learned from Jack Klein – how Gheddi had argued with him and made him change coordinates. In the end, however Gheddi never found anything but instead got Mako Poisoning and was brought back to Midgar to be handed over to the Scientific Research Department – the same fate as Glenn.
When the narrator asks Joanne what had happened to Glenn, she explains that in her case, while she was’t able to find her location in the photograph, she was lucky to have been able to return to Midgar. 2 weeks later, Lilisa returned but had severe Mako Poisoning. She eventually was able to walk again, but beyond that there was no hope she would recover. It was from the Turks who had dropped off Lilisa that Joanne had learned what had happened to Glenn – that he had died, despite efforts from the Research Team, including Professor Hojo to find a cure. Joanne was tasked with informing Glenn’s family and cleaning up and destroying his possessions. Lilisa’s parents had been long gone, but Glenn’s parents quietly accepted their son’s death, as he was a military man and they were at war after all.
The narrator asks if Joanne was the one who told them that he had died at war to which she explained that that was the way all individuals who didn’t return from the Special Locations Investigation assignment were all treated. If they died at war, the families would at least be compensated. However Gheddi was different. Gheddi had simply “disappeared” - his father had long passed away and his mother was now left alone.
Joanne now urged the narrator to answer her questions. 15 years ago, Glenn was supposed to go to Cosmo Canyon, but Gheddi who had taken his place along with his photograph instead changed the destination to Mideel. Did Gheddi have a different photograph? Or did he believe Mideel was a location rich with Mako energy? She wondered aloud where his certainty had come from, and moreover what was the source of these photographs they had been given – where did these drawings come from? The narrator took this time during Joanne’s absentminded mumbling to excuse himself to go to the washroom and proceeded to escape from Joanne’s room.

Aerith of the Shinra Building
Aerith and Ilfana’s room was on the top floor of the Shinra Building. The narrator and his mother were forbidden to know the exact floor number and were told never to question it. In addition to all of the White Coats walking about, there were also lightly geared military men as sometimes a test subject monster would go on a rampage.
The narrator’s mother was in charge of looking after Ilfana and Aerith. The narrator was Aerith’s playmate. Every day at 10am Gheddi would retrieve Ilfana and during the time she was away, the narrator’s mother would clean and do the laundry. He in turn, would spend that time playing with Aerith – showing off strange made up dances to each other, and playing hide and seek despite Aerith’s room being very small and sparse with little places to hide.
It is for this reason that the two of them created a new rule for themselves in which if they were found, one would try to make the other who was “it” laugh by making a funny face and if they succeeded, they were be declared the winner. Aerith would often be found behind the sofa, lying limp like a rag doll facing up with her eyes rolled back and her tongue sticking out. Whenever the narrator found her like that, he’d think “not again” but it somehow always managed to make him laugh.
On that fateful day, Aerith had been joyfully listening to a funny story that the narrator’s mother was telling – a greatly fabricated story about the time the narrator had run away from a Giant Rat monster that had appeared near their home. The rat's unusual ‘rolled up’ tail had greatly intrigued Aerith and she asked the narrator to show her what the tail looked like. The narrator, taking pen and paper, proceeded to draw a sketch for Aerith, but as she attempted to redraw his sketch, a peculiar change came over her.
Growling like a beast, she furiously began to draw – a person’s face, a tree, a flower, animals, monsters. The narrator and his mother could only stand and watch and she drew layers upon layers. The narrator’s mother quickly calls for help and Gheddi soon arrives followed by White Coats and Professor Hojo. Professor Hojo speaks to Aerith who in a trance-like state tells him that she can see it... she can hear a rushing sound – to the delight of Hojo who proclaims that Aerith has ‘awoken’. The narrator’s mother softly apologizes – that this was not what she had intended – and he knows that this apology was not meant for him.
Having worked though the night the narrator returns home to find Joanne Lyu waiting for him. She tells him that it would be troublesome since Sylvina is inside, and persuades him to follow her to the Slums. Upon the narrator’s questioning, Joanne admits that she found him using the same means the narrator had – by bribing people for information. The narrator notices a change in her tone and expression and points this out. Joanne admits it’s possible as she had done a lot of thinking and had decided to stop feeling like she was someone who didn’t deserve to have any desires. And it was thanks to the narrator that she was able to feel free. Relieved that he had been of some use, he regrets having been rude and running out on her. Joanne agrees for she had poured her heart out to him only to have him take off without giving her any answers. She pushes him to give her answers this time. She asks where Gheddi had gotten the photograph of Mideel – who had drawn the picture.
They approach the train station and the narrator sees Lilisa standing there, rocking back and forth on her feet as passersby stare coldly at her. Joanne admits that she had been hiding the fact that both she and Lilisa often go down to the Slums. They get on the crowded train. The narrator had only been to the Slums a few times due to work and never had a good impression on the place, having been born and raised on the Plate where they were taught that only failures lived down below.
Getting off at Sector 7 Slums, it was Lilisa who took the lead – heading out to the Train Graveyard. The narrator asks where Lilisa is going and Joanne tells him that it changes day by day and she doesn’t know. She is merely there as a bodyguard to make sure Lilisa doesn’t get on the wrong train or that she isn’t picked on by people.
The narrator questions Lilisa’s cognitive abilities – considering that she is suffering from severe Mako Poisoning. Joanne tells him that it’s possible that these ‘walks’ are the result of the treatment she received at the Scientific Research Department. Before the narrator can ask more questions, Joanne directs his attention to Lilisa who had come upon an open area – but she was not alone. There were seven others dressed just like she was in black robes. None of them did anything but to stand there facing different directions – but all of them looking upwards.
Joanne points to two of the robed figures standing off to the side and tells the narrator, to his bewilderment, that it’s Glenn and Gheddi. Glenn had been found by his father, wandering the Slums about 5 years prior. When Gheddi’s mother learned of this, she was sure that her son too was alive. Gheddi too, returned about 4 years ago. It wasn’t just the two of them – there were many people who had gone missing in the Slums – some have come back. But all are similar to Lilisa’s condition, and they all have numbered tattoos somewhere on their body.
Acknowledging that it’s the work of the Scientific Research Department, the narrator questions how the company is able to explain this off. Joanne explains that the only thing the company apologized for was the disappearances of military personnel. They also claimed that Patients in Long Term Care who no longer wished to be treated were granted discharge. A fact that the narrator questioned, given their inability to ‘talk’ for themselves.
Joanne is in agreement that beginning with Professor Hojo, the entire Scientific Research Department should be prosecuted – but to the parents, they are under the belief that the treatment they received is the reason their sons had survived – when normally Mako Poisoning meant certain death. Joanne quietly states that she has no right to deny them that belief – and neither did the narrator.
The narrator approaches one of the men, and despite the overgrown hair and beard, he knew this man was Gheddi. He tries to call out to him, but barely receives any reaction or sign of recognition. The narrator begins to speak words filled with regret, when he turns to see Joanne watching him.
Joanne explains that she had always thought that it was Lilisa who had poisoned them – to stop Glenn from leaving. She had the means to get the poison – but there was actually a much more reasonable answer.
On the train ride back, the narrator is suddenly roughed up by Joanne as she continues her theory. 15 years ago, it was Gheddi who had poisoned the food, not Lilisa – he too had access to Mako Waste as a staff member of the Scientific Research Department. He did it because he needed to get on the helicopter. But what had pushed Gheddi to take such action and why was the narrator focusing so much on Gheddi?
The narrator had spoken words of regret when he saw Gheddi – he had been trying to apologize to him. Joanne asked if he was the one who had been drawing the illustrations in the photographs given to them. Despite the narrator’s reluctance, Joanne demands that he tell her everything and he slowly begins to tell her about his time spent with Aerith.
After that initial instance, Aerith’s drawings soon became the talk of the company and even President Shinra himself came to observe her. He would relentlessly question her on the sources of the scenery she had drawn and he would be particularly pleased with her answer about how they would just appear as images in her head.
Joanne deduces that this was how the Special Locations Investigation Unit had come to fruition. Joanne then asks the narrator how he felt about Aerith’s abilities. The narrator explains that while he knew she was different, he felt that if he acknowledged this fact, she would go somewhere far away. Despite her being an Ancient, he had wanted her to stay ‘normal’ like him. However, when she started to draw, she changed – she barely ate, laughed or read.
A week after he had drawn the picture of the Giant Rat for her, he was forbidden to enter her room. While his mother continued to work, he was forced to remain at home – Professor Hojo had changed the rules, and his mother urged him to play with ‘normal’ kids. A week after that, things changed again. The narrator was suddenly called to headquarters. With his mother accompanying him, he finally saw Aerith again – but she was gaunt and sickly looking. Moreover, there was an immense drawing covering the entire wall in her room – filled with people, strange animals and scenery.

Aerith of the Shinra Building
The narrator’s mother had urged him to persuade Aerith to draw.
He marvels at the vast drawing, but Aerith tells him that the President and Professor don’t like it – they just want smaller drawings of scenery. When the narrator asks if she doesn’t want to draw those things, she replies that she can’t – she can’t see those scenes anymore. He suggests that she just draw from her imagination, but she shakes her head. Aerith tells him that if she doesn’t draw a real place, someone will die – that’s what Professor Hojo had told her.
The narrator didn’t understand what she meant at the time and was merely annoyed at being dragged into the situation. He tells her to either draw or to quit but Aerith merely cries for her mother. Angered, the narrator told Aerith that she must listen to what she’s told – to draw what she’s asked to draw and to let it be the last time. He convinces her that if she listened to him they could do it. Aerith begins to prepare to draw and the narrator realizes that it wasn’t because she had believed him – but it was as if she had given up... because the friend she had wished to see ended up being a henchman for the Shinra Company.
At the narrator’s urging and whispered directions, Aerith began to draw the trees and scenes of Mideel – it was a scene he had seen in a magazine his mother had been reading. Using the emergency call button, the narrator is able to get Gheddi to come and passes him the drawing – telling him that Aerith used her last bit of strength to make it. It was a scene that came to her so vividly like never before, but had drained all her powers. He then asks Gheddi to tell this to Professor Hojo.
Gheddi agrees to do so, and looking at the drawing, wonders if it’s Mideel. He questions Aerith about it and with a glance at the narrator, Aerith affirms that that was correct. Gheddi is overjoyed as he had seen the place in a magazine. The narrator urges Gheddi to give the drawing to Professor Hojo.
In the end, Gheddi had ended up using the drawing for himself – and because of that he lost the light from not only his life, but of Glenn and Lilisa.... and Joanne had lost her friends. It was a week after that that Lilisa had escaped and barged into Aerith’s room – and despite Aerith’s wide and pleading eyes, the narrator had turned and ran out on her.
Joanne sees that an immense feeling of guilt had made the narrator come this far. However, she explains that it was Gheddi that had pushed Lilisa and Glenn to their fate. The narrator may have been the trigger, but neither Gheddi’s actions nor the lives lost because of Shinra’s Scientific Research Department were his fault. She continues, telling him that no matter what she says, the narrator’s guilt will never disappear.
She suddenly begins to tell the narrator of a large square located near the Sector 8 train station and asks if he’s ever been there. Confused, the narrator admits that he never goes that way. Joanne tells him of a Flower Seller there – who is named Aerith.

submitted by mtarashidango to FFVIIRemake

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