We all love to set goals. There’s just something emotionally satisfying about goals, isn’t there? (More on this one another time) But when it comes to accomplishing those goals, we instantly think about the “stuff” we just have to have to accomplish the goal. Maybe it’s the cool looking clothes to make you feel good about yourself. Or the latest gadget or software you just have to have in order to be productive. The late night workout widget that promises us the abs we want in 6 weeks flat. In other words, we immediately go to figuring out the best way to shortcut the process.
The tendency lives in us all. You could blame it on our society’s obsession with instant success. Perhaps it is how media glorifies the company’s that grow exponentially or stars that go from YouTube to filling stadiums in seemingly no time. But I think maybe it’s just because we’re flat out lazy.
The other day I was talking with someone about a new venture they wanted to take on. It was exciting and new and they had even written down their reasons for doing this to display in their office. Gleaming in the sun of hope it was…a bright, shiny object. Do you know what I mean? It had caught their imagination and overwhelmed their more rational mind which would normally be able to see all the holes in the ship.
Here was the gist: they had found an opportunity to make money online and had fallen in love with the dream. Bam! Website up, profits roll. Here was the major, gaping hole – they could barely handle the features on their cell phone much less understand things like UI design, SEO, PPC, niche selection, keyword selection, analytics, community building, etc. But no matter! They had a company that was going to help them learn all they needed to know…in 4 weeks. Woo-hoo! Now, I’ll admit the educational material seemed to be pretty good. But no matter how good the material, you can’t go from where this person was to Internet entrepreneur in 4 weeks. And here’s the kicker – the training was going to be thousands of dollars. (Which they didn’t really have.)
Maybe I’m crazy, but this just sounded like a great way to throw several thousand dollars down a hole.
I listened as patiently as possible and asked them things like, “You know, a lot of this kind of learning can be done for free from the web and supplemented with deeper knowledge from fairly inexpensive books. Why don’t you start there and try your hand at doing something on the web like building a blog community? That way you can learn the ropes and then apply it to a business.” The response, like ones I’ve heard myself give before, was “I just don’t know where to start! I’m not sure I can learn without someone to talk with and help explain things to me. I just need help.” Now, on the surface this may seem like a fairly reasonable statement. What if you don’t know where to start and need guidance navigating this new world? Isn’t that what universities are for? Didn’t I do this when I went to GA Tech? But here is the issue: this was a 4-week course. If you can’t learn independently, you aren’t gaining a whole new career-level skill in 4 weeks. Not only that, but the world of building a web-based company is changing by the millisecond. You learned SEO? Oops! Google just changed the rules…again. Got your blog building strategy down? Uh-oh! Now there are new “rules.”
Here’s my point – they were missing a basic fundamental. The “stuff” that was going to short-cut the process aren’t going to do any good unless this person develops the fundamentals of discipline, independent learning, creativity, perseverance and personal responsibility.
Why in the world do we think that throwing money at something means a higher chance of success? It’s kind of like when you see people get all excited about going to the gym and getting in shape. They tend to buy a membership at the biggest, best gym and buy all the cool looking clothes and fancy gear. They stock up on the latest pills and potions…before they’ve set foot in the gym or develop a plan of attack. Then, 3 weeks later they’re back at home sitting on the couch eating Cheetos wondering why their plan failed. It was because they should have focused on the basics first. 99 times out of a 100, you should get started on something using the free options. Once you know this is something you want to do (because you’ve been doing it) you’ll have developed the core of discipline and base level knowledge. Then you can hire someone to help take your game to the next level. Starting with money gives you a false sense of security. You think that since spending money gives a higher chance of success when in reality it lowers your chances. Why? Because it blinds you to what really creates progress. Money doesn’t create value or progress. What creates these things is you. Your discipline. Your creativity. Your perseverance. Nothing else. No coach, course, equipment, pill or formula overcomes the basic fundamentals of winning through personal discipline and will.
To be clear, I’m not at all against spending money to take your game up a notch. But it’s like nutritional supplements. 99% of the people taking a performance supplement derive almost no value from it. Why? Because a supplement isn’t a magic pill that melts fat. (Sorry to all the advertisements out there saying otherwise.) Supplements are just that…supplemental. If you haven’t developed the core discipline of working your butt off and eating right, taking that supplement is going to skinny your wallet – not your belly. And you don’t need a fancy gym or a trainer to work your butt off. You can do pull-ups, push ups, sit ups, running, jump rope, kettle bells and many, many other exercises at home for a few bucks.
When you do master the basics, if you do develop some basic skills, knowledge, discipline and attitude of perseverance and apply that to some initial experimentation in your chosen arena, then adding some paid coaching on top of that can be immensely helpful. When you take the first step on your own, your confidence, base knowledge and discipline will give you the foundation you need to get a return on any money spent furthering yourself. Or…you’ll find that you aren’t going to be able to do this new thing you thought was so great. Either way, you’ll end up knowing you. And that is the most important step.
I know there are a lot more angles to this topic and there is no way to cover them all in a blog post. But I’d love to hear thoughts from anyone else on this. Do you agree that our ability to put money at something up front is actually a bad idea (most of the time)? When would it be better to lead with money? (Other than what is absolutely required to get started.)
UPDATE: I just got this post from Jeff Goins site this morning and loved this guest post: http://goinswriter.com/athletics-of-art/. Highlight:
Repetition tries our intentions. The thought of creating art is appealing to almost everyone. But the commitment and discipline required to make it is another story. People pay big money to set up a blog or get private lessons, but those same people quit quickly when nothing happens overnight. Why? Because maybe they confused a desire to create with a need for affirmation.