The other day I looked at the podcast app on my phone and noticed that it had been months since the last time I listened to my favorite business show, Smart Passive Income with Pat Flynn.
This is the same show that for two years I listened to faithfully, week after week, usually on its release day. I was thrilled when Pat added a shorter, 5X/week podcast so I could get a daily fix. My kids know Pat by name. I was even a guest on his show back in 2013.
Over the years, I eagerly gobbled up helpful tips on marketing an ebook (which I put into effect during my launch of Beyond Baby last spring,) starting an e-commerce business, setting up an email autoresponder series, monetizing a podcast, choosing keywords, effectively using affiliate marketing, writing a great sales page, and hundreds of other themes centered around building a tighter, better, more effective business.
As time went on, even Pat’s frequent podcasts weren’t enough, and I found myself falling down the iTunes rabbit hole searching for more hosts dishing out more advice. Every time I’d listen to a new episode I’d feel a burst of energy and enthusiasm, and would delve into hours of research surrounding the topic du jour. Sometimes I’d work on implementing new strategies right away; other times I’d just let them percolate for a while.
I’m not sure what the tipping point was, but some point, I hit a serious wall.
Somehow, in all that research, I’d found myself getting a bad case of “other-people’s-business-itis.”
That’s my fancy term for when, instead of charting a course that feels right for you, applying yourself to that course, and measuring your own unique progress, you find yourself paying more attention to what other people are doing and buying into the idea that somehow they’ve come up with the One Unique Formula That Unfailingly Leads To Business Success. (And if you could just learn and apply that formula, you could replicate their success, too.)
In my eagerness to absorb new information and learn new skills and techniques, I’d overloaded and overwhelmed myself with data, tips, and tools that I was not prepared to use, that did not always jive with my particular goals, skills and beliefs, and sometimes, that I was just not that interested in implementing.
And it wasn’t just the mental burden taking its toll. One day, wondering why my business bank account seemed to be bleeding money, I added up all the plugins, tools, services, domain names, hosting accounts, and tutorials I’d purchased (some with monthly recurring fees) and – well, ouch.
So what’s the lesson in all this?
In my well-placed zeal to learn new things, I lost sight of the basics: those things I’m really good at and love doing, like writing, communicating, and connecting with people. Without those things, any business strategies I tried to put into place would never be a true reflection of me or have the same potential for helping others.
Because no matter what tools or plugins or systems you have in place, what really moves the needle is doing the thing you can do better than anyone else. (Tweet This!)
And conversely, no matter what tools, plugins, or systems you have in place, if you lose sight of what you bring to the table, you will never make the same impact as you will if you invest in your unique skills and interests.
There’s a lot of advice out there about the best way to do online business.
Some of it is genuine, hard-won, and helpful. But much – perhaps most – is self-serving, opportunistic, and obfuscated by slick sales tactics and questionable success stories. For those of us who just want to create and communicate and are looking for guidance on the best ways to grow an audience, it’s not always easy to tell the difference. And even the best advice can become clutter when it overwhelms you and gets in the way of focusing on your core strengths and purpose.
But for those of us interested in doing business with heart, there’s one starting point that can never lead you astray: Be yourself, and focus on what you’re good at.
Let your unique personality and talents be the cornerstone of every other thing you do. By all means, listen, learn, and implement new ideas, but don’t get so caught up in the quest for new and more that you forget what brought you here in the first place.
Looking around the blogosphere this new year, I’m struck by how many of us are expressing a longing for a return to something simpler, more connected, more real. The good news is that we have the power to bring it back, and in doing so, create a better Internet for ourselves and our readers.
I also believe wholeheartedly that it is the only path to true success in this space, whether we define success as the money we earn, the lives we touch, or the satisfaction we feel at the end of the day. (Personally, I’m going for “all of the above.”)
One of these days, I’ll start listening to business podcasts and reading business blogs again. There’s just too much good information out there, and too many good people (like Pat!) to write off the genre forever.
But this time, I’ll be more selective. I’ll listen only to the hosts I sense are genuine, thoughtful, and interested first and foremost in their audiences. I’ll focus on the topics that have a direct relevance to something I’m currently working on. I’ll make sure I spend a lot more time focusing on the things I do best and that help my audience most, than trying to learn the next new traffic-building or monetization strategy.
And I’ll keep in mind the lessons I’ve learned from this experience, which could also serve as my 2015 blogging resolution:
Be yourself. Do what you love. Help as many others as you can along the way. (Tweet This!)
It may not be the kind of business advice that will fill my bank account with affiliate dollars, but at the end of the day, it’s the best way to keep loving what I do.