A dirty little secret

Here’s a dirty little secret about business in the digital age: people aren’t as financially successful as you think they are.

I’m not saying anyone is lying about their earnings. If someone tells you how much they’re producing, I would trust it. What I mean is that you perceive the people you admire, many of the business owners who seem to be “crushing it,” to be more financially successful than they are.

This isn’t an exposé on others lack of success; it’s an exposé on the thought patterns and assumptions that keep you struggling when you should be thriving.

When you stare at your Twitter stream or the fancy websites of your colleagues, your mind plays tricks on you. You confuse the shiny veneer with deep success. I do too. It’s an easy mistake to make.

When you see a highly organized, well-executed launch, you associate it with a small team of gifted marketers and lots of sales. What you don’t see is the one-woman show, the sleepless nights, the endless “hustle,” the working-too-hard-for-too-little routine.

When you see an ebook or a program or an affiliate campaign, you associate it with waking up every day to hundreds of dollars more in the bank. What you don’t see is the lack of sales or the constant work required to move a small amount of inventory.

When you see a business with a wait list, you associate it with a calendar full of exciting clients and a bank account full of service fees. What you don’t see is the unpaid bills, the anxiety of asking for payment, and nagging feeling that there’s a better way to be spending time. What you don’t hear is the quiet whisper of, “Who am I to want anything different than this? I should feel blessed to be this busy.”

This might even be you now. You’ve executed the launch, you’ve created an opportunity for leveraged income, or you’ve sold out your calendar. People tell you that you’re successful. And you believe them. But again, you’re left with the nagging thought, “I didn’t think that success would feel like this.”

Look, I’m not trying to be a downer. I’m an optimist – but I’m also a realist. And I woke up with a strong desire to let you in on this secret. The reality is that I know all this because these business owners – the ones you associate with big launches, profitable products, and sold out service calendars – they come to me when they’ve had enough. And I’m generally as surprised to hear from them as you’d be! They open up and tell me they want to make more money, work less, and structure the business differently.

What I’ve discovered is that the source of their frustration is the engine of their business, the thing that keeps it motoring down the road. What’s the engine? It’s them!

When you’re trying to be the engine of your own business it can manifest in many ways:

  • pushing out tons of free stuff to try to gain traction
  • doing “the work” at the expense of building the business
  • saying “yes” to every opportunity for exposure or joint venture
  • changing surface-level tactics and hoping for a different result

I recently wrote that after the sparkly follow-your-passion dreams wear off and the reality of hard work sets in, it’s easy to confuse busyness with business. When you are the engine of your business growth, busyness seems like the answer. If only you put in more hours, if only you checked more things off the list, you could get the business where you want it to be.

It’s the truly successful people who realize their business is run by something greater than their sheer effort.

The business grows because it’s built to grow. The model provides for growth through clear channels of customer acquisition, products that build on previous successes, and systems that eliminate busywork while replicating results.

It’s a mindset shift. And a drastic one, at that.

It requires you accepting that more work, harder work, or sheer will is not the key to getting ahead.

And it requires that you have faith in your ability to step back from the work far enough to see how the business could succeed without your constant interference.

Continue the conversation...

76 comments on “A dirty little secret

  1. Rachel says:

    Love this post Tara! I just finished up on my latest blog post that comes at this very same topic from a spiritual angle in which I share that work and wealth do not have a 1:1 relationship in God’s economy. Then I check my inbox and BAM! Synchronicity in full effect. Here’s to working smarter…not harder.

    • tara gentile says:

      Hi Rachel! Yes, this idea that the amount of work you put into the system is the amount of wealth you can draw from it is just not economically correct. Our work must be more valuable to the world than the pain/time/effort it requires of us or it’s not actually value creation, it’s just value distribution.

  2. Tara thank you so much for this post.
    It really cheered me up.
    I´m struggling with to many things to do do, alone, and definitly this is a wake up call.
    I need to stop and review the model of the little things I´m doing now, to see what´s wrong in order to change it and to create new models to the next business.
    Because when my business take off, I need to have a great model in oreder tp be abble to work in what I like, not in being overwhelmed with things that I dislike.


    • Adrienn says:

      Hi Helena! Just checked your etsy shop. Please tell me you deliver to Hungary as well! Your jewellery is absolutely beautiful!

    • tara gentile says:

      Exactly right – you can’t simply create the systems you need NOW. You need to create the systems that will work with the goals you have in mind.

  3. Adrienn says:

    So true! But as always it is so much easier to produce quantity instead of quality.

    • tara gentile says:

      Adrienn, I’d actually challenge you on that. I see a lot of people trying to create quality at the expense of creating something that scales. For many business owners, quantity is exactly what is eluding them.

      • Adrienn says:

        I agree. But what advice would you give them? Where is the fine line? Does reducing quality eventually mean more sales?

  4. Lynn Merves says:

    Oh so true but so hard to follow. It is a challenge many of us deal with. Thanks for the reminder of what a good business model needs to be.

  5. Joy says:

    I counsel “plant the seeds and allow them to grow” yet it takes trust and awareness to step away from something one is emotionally attached to, so I consistently re-align into this truth. For me, when I hover over my site and my projects, I end up creating busywork, instead of enjoying the freedom the structure of my business provides. Thank you for the affirmation and the reminder!

    • The beauty of stepping back and looking at your business, in terms of seeing what a business without you interfering in it looks like, is that you can get deeply into understanding the “why” of what you do.
      In doing this, I’ve found that my true work is significantly different than what I’ve been doing. And that gives me peace. And it makes it easier to serve my clients in ways that are better for them.
      But this process is difficult for many people to do, especially people without much experience in business development, and with the high levels of anxiety related to making a living in this economy (this anxiety is entirely unnecessary). It is a change in mindset, and also a change in one’s understanding of one’s skill set.
      I feel like a big part of making a decent income has to do with understanding how your work changes people and betters their lives!

    • tara gentile says:

      Joy, I think we need to be very careful of our emotional attachment to our work – that’s a big part of the problem with business models that don’t work. I don’t mean that you should align your work to your greatest values and give it great meaning BUT it’s not a substitute for other forms of value and meaning in your life. And that is where we create unhealthy (and commercially unsustainable) emotional attachments to our businesses.

  6. Casey says:

    I love this post! Thank you!

  7. YES. I love this post, Tara.

    Two things:
    1. Everyone measures success in different ways. Some people measure it with monthly page views, sponsorship opportunities and money. Me? I measure success by how much time I have to do yoga, travel and if can I afford to spontaneously eat sushi on a Tuesday night.

    2. I love what you say about setting your business up for growth. I’ve been stretching my mind to figure out how to stretch my business into a scalable model. How to come up with offerings that can meet the needs of those with a $50 budget and those with a $50,000 budget. For me it has come in partnering up with my sister and hiring employees – which has been a HUGE leap of faith – but continues to pay for itself in the growth.

    However, I still feel a lot of the symptoms you describe up above – maybe it can be caused by the infancy of my business. Clearly I still have some thinking and strategizing (and growing) to do on the topic. Thanks again!

  8. Monica says:

    Great post Tara! As someone who is going through her first e-course launch, this really resonates. I would LOVE a follow-up post about “business that are built to grow” to get some more specific insights;)

  9. The hardest thing to learn about this is schedule a set amount of time each day to put into your business, then walk away and let it work.
    When you have a set amount of money written down that you want to make or need to make and that doesn’t happen, that is where the frustration comes in to play.
    The bottom line is some will be successful and others will struggle to be! There is no magic bullet or formula to success.

  10. Either you are incredibly insightful or you have been rummaging around in my head! Either way, great message for me. Thanks!!

  11. Damn girl! You are speaking right to me with this one!

  12. Mari Barnes says:

    Tara, I felt like you were speaking to ME, but from the comments it’s obvious that there a re a lot of MEs out there. So I’m overwhelmed, but I’m not alone!

  13. Jon Buscall says:

    Yes, it’s the system that counts. Identifying business systems that work for you is essential to growing. It can be dangerous to buy to heavily into the social media mantra doing the rounds without actually remembering that you have to measure what you’re producing in terms of results.

    Maybe it’s easier to get excited about engaging, creating, sharing and liking that it is in wading through analytics, re-defining sales funnels and optimizing your system.

  14. Tara, you consistently shine a light on the truth. Love that about you. I recently had to back out of a JV project because the sales copy touted me as a “6-figure” biz owner. Which I’m not. And I didn’t want people to be misled about me or where I’m at in terms biz “success.” Not sure if the other people were ever asked about their level of success, but this is a problem I see being played out over and over again everywhere online. Yes, we need to build something that scales — but it should scale to the extent we want it to…not to some outside ideal that involves 6, 7, or 8 figures. Not everyone wants that. And there’s not a lot of support out there for helping people build something that perfectly suits them. We are lucky to have you.

  15. Meghan says:

    Yes! I love this post because it is so true! While some people do have 7 figure businesses that they love, most people I know don’t want to work 24/7 to reach that level of income. I know I don’t. Instead I want a business that I love, that is meaningful and that pays the bills for the lifestyle I want. I think more and more people are waking up to this.

  16. Camila says:

    Gold. You are throwing down gold.

  17. Marcos Baker says:

    Many of the business man who seem to be “crushing it,” to be more financially successful than others.sadaqah jariyah

  18. Fantastic post.. As someone who is going through her first e-course launch, this really resonates. know I do not. Instead I want a organization that I really like, that is considerable and that will pay the costs for the way of lifestyle I want. I think more and more people are getting out of bed to this.

  19. Dave Conrey says:

    Such a timeless post, Tara. I was just thinking about a friend and client’s business problems this morning, which is right in line with what you’re saying here, so I’m going to forward this post to him. Hopefully it will do him some good.

  20. thanks so much for this tara! it was time i took a big, deep breath.