The One Skill that Makes an Online Entrepreneur Unstoppable

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Pop quiz, hotshot: What’s the most important skill you must have in order to be successful as an entrepreneur, especially in an online business? 

Is it salesmanship? Is it social media savvy, or SEO knowledge? 

Is it writing and content marketing? (Because I know a great blog about that.) 

Or is it tech stuff, like the ability to set up and manage a functional website, capture leads, manage an email list, and so on? 

If you answered any of these, important as they might be, sorry, you’re wrong. 

You don’t need to possess any of those skills, because you can outsource them, or you can go out and learn them anytime you want.

You can learn anything nowadays, usually for free. Want to learn how to field-strip an obscure Russian firearm that hasn’t been manufactured since 1927? I’ll bet someone has made a YouTube video showing you how. 

All the knowledge in the world is literally at our fingertips. Yet only a handful of people break through from wanna-be-successes to true successes. So what’s missing? 

What entrepreneurs need most isn’t knowledge. What they need is the ability to evolve.

You must analyze and adapt

There’s a lot of talk in branding circles about how if you don’t keep doing what people have come to expect from you, you’re just confusing your audience. You’ve got to have a niche, and that niche has high, unclimbable walls around it. If you do something odd and out of character, or not in your currently accepted area of expertise, people won’t know what you stand for and hence won’t buy anything from you. 

What terrible advice. 

Even big companies that become dogmatic get slaughtered nowadays. Look at the music and film industries, and the crap they tried to hand us to protect themselves while their inflexible bulks drowned. 

Now, look at the success stories.

  • While Borders bookstores were dying, Amazon led the e-book revolution with Kindle. They also went from selling books to selling everything under the sun, and started providing tech services like Amazon S3 media hosting.
  • Google entered a market that already had dominant search engines, like Yahoo and Lycos, but then branched from search into apps, smartphone operating systems, voice communications, mapping and navigation, commerce services, and just about everything else. And now who’s the household name?
  • Copyblogger started as a blog about copywriting. Then it became more about internet marketing and small business. Then it began creating products and merging with partners, now selling premium WordPress themes, content optimization, and landing page software.

At no point did Brian Clark say, “Woah, wait a minute… a blog that sells WordPress themes? That’ll confuse everyone” and ditch the whole thing to go back to only publishing posts about writing. 

Mindlessly sticking to what used to work is overrated.

The evolution of a lovable jackass

If you’re thinking that you’re no Amazon, Google, or Copyblogger, then let me tell you my story as a one-person business that’s doing pretty well these days. 

Nobody knows how to describe me. This includes myself. People ask me what I do, and I never know what to tell them.

Sonia Simone called me (in public, in a Blogworld keynote, thanks Sonia) a “lovable jackass.” It was amusing to me at the time, but now I realize that it’s flat-out apt. It should be my tagline, because it’s just about all you can pin on me. 

Here’s a brief outline of my journey so far:

  • Three years ago, I wrote a humor blog.
  • Two and a half years ago, I did a ton of technology services, like blog setups.
  • Two years ago, I did even more and expanded tech services, but also had begun coaching. I wrote about business a lot.
  • A year ago, I still did some tech work, but was teaching and coaching more. I’d co-created Question the Rules and a few other courses. I’d tell you that what I blogged about was “personal development for entrepreneurs.”
  • Six months ago, after having been goaded into “leveling up” my blogging, I wrote more “epic” posts, coached, and sold information products. I was also in charge of the Virtual Ticket program for Blogworld, including acting as its host and MC.
  • Now, as of two weeks ago, I’m a novelist. I’d describe my blog as being about human potential and personal development. I do almost no technology work and not a lot of coaching.
  • In the next few months, I’m going to start a podcast, work on a new novel, write more of those epic blog posts, talk a bit about DIY digital publishing, and host Blogworld’s event again.

That’s a lot of change in three years, but I can tell you one thing for certain: if at any point in that chain I’d stuck to my guns and said, “I’m a humor blogger,” or “I’m a tech guy” or “I’m a marketer” and refused to evolve, I’d be out of business today.

Change your mind. Right now.

Sometimes people ask me why I talk so much about stuff that’s intangible, stuff that you might describe as “upping your mental game.” The reason is because it’s the only thing that makes a difference. 

Meaning: You don’t need more knowledge, because you have access to more knowledge than you can handle.

What you need is the mindset to actually go out and use what you know.

You don’t need skills. You need meta-skills.

  • You’ve got to learn to be uncertain and take risks. If you stay within what’s known and safe, you will never be truly successful. Doing what’s uncertain and risky isn’t easy, and that’s why the people who dare to do it are rewarded.
  • You’ve got to learn to lead, which simply means going out and doing things. If you do things instead of always thinking and talking about doing things, then congratulations, you’re a leader. Others will follow.
  • You’ve got to learn to solve problems. I unschool my kids because I believe that children don’t need to memorize facts — especially in a world that changes this rapidly. They need to learn how to look at a situation, determine which resources they need, and then go find those resources in order to solve the problem. We must all learn to fish instead of relying on others giving us fish.
  • You’ve got to start believing you can do it. That sounds rah-rah, but it’s very important. We train ourselves into believing that we can do some things and can’t do others. Think you can’t do calculus? Wrong. You can’t levitate on Earth without assistance or superpowers. There’s a huge difference between those “can’ts.” (Other manifestations of this: “I’m not that kind of person,” “I wasn’t raised that way,” and “What will my parents/friends/neighbors/Twilight fan club think?”)

You’ve been a little bit brainwashed by the circumstances you’ve lived through. It’s okay, because we all have. But what you need to understand is that that cultural brainwashing puts you at a disadvantage as an entrepreneur. 

It may sound trite to talk about upping your mental game … but if you don’t do exactly that, you’ll be stuck forever.

How to up your mental game

I wrote a post here last week about how damaging “blind obedience to rules” can be to an entrepreneurial business.

This post is pretty much saying the same thing, except that it’s about how damaging it can be to blindly obey the bogus rules you’ve established inside your own mind.

My solution to addressing both kinds of rules is the same.

I held a webinar recently that was all about developing the mind-changing attributes that are necessary for success (and survival) as an entrepreneur. It was called, Breaking Rules for Fun and Profit: 21 Lies About Business, Money, and Life That You Don’t Even Realize Are Holding You Back, and What To Do About Them. You can’t attend the webinar, obviously, but you can watch the recording.

Can’t make yourself do what needs to be done in your business? Are you afraid? Are you uncertain? Do you get stuck? Do you know everything you need to know — and know exactly what you need to do — but just … can’t … seem to … do it?

That happens because you’re believing lies that you’ve been told or have learned, and have internalized those lies as rules and limitations. But they’re not true.

They are not true.

If you want to up your mental game and learn how to get over the hump, watching the “Breaking Rules for Fun and Profit” webinar recording would be a good first step.

Watch the webinar recording here.

In the meantime, how are you struggling in your mental game? Let me know in the comments …

About the Author: Johnny B. Truant just released his novel The Bialy Pimps despite the fact that it’s totally ridiculous for a business and human potential blogger to write a novel about fame and bagels. He is also attributing the testimonial “This book takes ‘lovable jackass’ to a whole new level” to Sonia Simone, even though she didn’t technically say it.

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Reader Comments (113)

  1. says

    Wow! this is powerful thought infact the most outstanding tips is ”Change your mind. Right now”. This idea can really propel your success to the next level. Yes, you can get rich , but there is catch what i have learn from the content is that you should project false barriers that might hinder your entreprenual succeess. So, the right way is to fortress and protect your idea from knockoff failures.

  2. says

    In my opinion you’re not really a business until you hire staff. Very few small businesses evolve beyond this basic stage. As the E-Myth books say, you should probably spend less time working in your business and more time working on your business.

  3. says

    Learning this lesson a ton more each day Johnny.

    Evolve. Learn. Adapt. Rinse, wash, repeat. Work on your mindset. Like, a lot.

    The more flexible you are the better. Be willing to turn on a dime, when necessary.

    Thanks Johnny!


  4. says

    Wow, you just convinced me to switch my game. I used to have a rare skill that employers clamored for, but now it’s more common. I need to move into rare air again

  5. says

    I completely agree. The lack of the ability to evolve is exactly what drives so many businesses into ruin. You need to adapt to your time and to what’s going on around you, otherwise you’ll lose. Holding on to the past or fearing that you’ll fail if you develop and work on yourself, will never lead to success.

  6. says

    Hey, Johnny. You know what? The last ten or so posts I’ve read this week all had subtle implications that someone like me wouldn’t be able to survive blogging and writing. Subtle, yet I spotted them. They may not have been about me, but they were generally about someone LIKE me.

    This post breaks the combo. I love you, man. (In a non-creepy way, but knowing you, you probably won’t mind)

  7. says

    I think this is right on the money. Any business stubbornly refusing to take into consideration the changing preferences of their clients is in for a tough time when trends change (which they always tend to do).

  8. says

    I found this post really interesting. I’ve already decided that I don’t want to just do one thing when I graduate – heck, I don’t even do just one thing now. Being adaptable is the future, and you showed that wonderfully in this post.

  9. says

    While a lot of this is true. I am going to go the contrary way a little.

    First off, google didn’t just stray like it’s being made to seem. They were deliberately building an ecosystem around their key product -search. To confirm this, you just need to take a look at your google+ menu and see how beautifully they have integrated all they do.

    Second, Copyblogger is not just straying into diverse business as it may seem. They are providing tools that make online marketing work. That is a brand that they are consistently upholding through the creation of new products and services.

    Three, Amazon started as an online book STORE and then ventured into the sales of other things still under the online store business. This is their core business and the same reason they bought Zappos anothoer online store. That they do some other side projects doesn’t undermine their original business model -online store.

    Fourth, Virgin group which may seem as one of the most prominent company producing unrelated products/services, still has a core brand theme underlying what they do. Everything they touch must signify fun, innovation and service. They go into markets that are underserved and become the underdog that wins the heart of the customers. They don’t just survive, they thrive by being deliberate.

    Now the bottomline is this; being jack of all trades doesn’t make you an ICON in your playing field. It just means you are every where but not known for something. They way I see it, if you don’t STAND for something you will FALL for anything.

    People relate and form emotional bonding with brands. You can always evolve, but that doesn’t mean you beat around the bush aimlessly without a clear sense of purpose. You will only end up as a survivor and rarely a powerhouse!

    My own two cents -;)

    • says

      I agree that it’s not just about wandering around — it’s about strategic evolution and adaptation, and most of all, paying attention to what’s really in front of you and not an abstract plan you had on paper.

      • says

        Absolutely Sonia.
        The market is our feedback mechanism as entrepreneurs. It’s not what we want, but what they want. So evolving strategically is simply listening to their needs and meeting it purposefully and profitably.

        Thanks for deleting one of the comments. Been having a hard time since last year with my comments not showing. Just didn’t know why. So in a bid to get this out, I used my other details. Sorry for any inconveniences. Thanks to Brian who responded to my tweet and dug out my comment from the spam trash -:)

    • says

      I actually agree. The thing is, I tend to write strongly worded posts when I’m writing on a topic that I feel is heavily weighted in the other direction already. In other words, people KNOW about the perception of niching and specializing because that side is so dominant. So when I zag to that zig, I push hard… and it means that some of the clarifying details get left out.

      Remember that I’m talking about EVOLUTION, not just random change. So when I give the snapshots of my journey and those of the other companies, I’m not connecting the dots, but am implying that there are steps between said dots. Of course the businesses that all of these companies ended up in over the years have been related, as have mine.

      So for instance, it’s not like I was a tech guy, but then one day woke up and said, “Hell, I’ll talk about business instead!” and totally, immediately ditched my old model. It was an evolution, over time. Specifically, I had a successful business doing tech stuff, and people asked me, “How did you build that business?” and so I started to talk about what I did, which led to business. Same for the rest of the transitions The novel is a significant departure, but my readers know me first and foremost as a writer, not as a “business guy.” I don’t write straight facts; it’s the WAY I write whatever it is that my audience likes. So following along to a novel actually kind of makes sense. Plus, my blog is about experimentation, so the notion of my “self-publishing experiment” works too.

      Lastly, the intro posts I wrote about the novel explain (first post) my thoughts about doing what compels you rather than what you think “fits” all the time, which is a dominant theme on my blog and (second post) the deliberate process of free distribution as it relates to self-publishing in the newly gatekeeperless world of Web 2.0. So if you fill in the gaps, you’ll see that I’m not actually advocating “what the hell” adoption of totally disparate things on a whim. This about analyzing and adapting, over time, as the market or readership demands. But I can see how people might have missed that because I didn’t say it in the interest of the “strongly zagging post” I was shooting for.

      So really, we agree, I think.

      Of COURSE there needs to be a brand. Of COURSE you need to have transitions over time and an overarching theme. But it’s vital to not be dogmatic about the services under your brand and say, “This is what we do and nothing else!” That’s what’s killing the record and film industries, and why they tried to push through SOPA and PIPA. They have a system in place and can’t adapt fast enough to a world where the content will be shared freely… and in which they could capitalize on that if they were able to expand and adapt. But instead their model kind of says, “We sell this” and it ends there.

      So… well said. And thanks for clarifying. I don’t want to be seen as advocating random stuff with no connections, especially for those who are brand new.

      I totally, 100% agree that you have to stand for something. As long as you’ll allow that your “something” will and should evolve and grow over time.

  10. says

    You’re absolutely right! Learning to adapt is more important than learning the other skills that Internet work requires. Those who adapt to changing circumstances will succeed, and those who create the circumstances to which others must adapt will thrive. Thanks for raising an interesting point.

    • says

      I so agree with Doug, everything on the internet is changing daily – just today – March 1st, no more blogger follows except for those on blogger itself – new Facebook pages for businesses and Google’s new privacy policy takes effect. A lot of things to have in order for just one day and it keeps changing daily.

      • says

        It’s very right Lisa. When Google Plus was introduced and then its business page, I thought to myself, what’s next? These days Pinterest and other stuff are introduced to the web.

        I think one solid strategy could be stick to what works for you and do it well YOUR WAY! it makes you unique. As long as there are bloggers, blog is alive and you can use it beautifully for various purposes. Why should we call our friends to a new social sites because we want to tell them something? Do we want to find new friends and followers? Couldn’t we use the potentials at our hands so far?

        Rahman Mehraby
        Travelist Marketing Platform

  11. says

    I think this post, as good as it is, is a little misleading. The implication that can be easily taken away is that we should all just mercurially follow our whims or change course when the going gets tough (or boring). But I know PLENTY of artists, entrepreneurs, creators, etc. who are forever flitting around from idea to idea and pursuit to pursuit, never even touching on success. One woman I know sells scarves online, is a realtor, does website design, and it thinking about starting a cafe — but ask others what she does and they have no clue. She may be having a great time, but her brand is totally diluted.

    I would argue that there are two things to add to the wisdom of this post:
    (1) You can jump around once you have a decent baseline of success to build on, hence “evolve.” This is a topic that comes up again and again in my book on entrepreneurial lessons from rock stars. Bruce Dickinson, lead singer for Iron Maiden, is also a world-class fencer, novelist, and commercial airline pilot. While no one knows how his path *would have* gone, the odds are that his pursuits were helped by his music success first and foremost.
    (2) It’s not as important to adapt and evolve as it is to know *when* to adapt and evolve. Seth Godin has touched on this more than once, that we’re taught to not quit when in fact we should quit more often. However, the caveat is that successful people don’t just quit more often; they know *when* to quit. THIS is the hard part. Flitting and quitting is easy. In fact, for some people it’s an attractive distraction and way to avoid putting in the hard work or facing the fears that come with possible or impending success.

    So, yes, adapt and evolve — but remember that Amazon, Google, and every other successful brand expansion were able to do so precisely because they had built a solid brand platform first.

  12. says

    I love the part about unschooling your kids. My kids are older and I’ve told them education can open the doors, but you’ve got to have more than that to succeed – especially with how fast life changes. Also, I know my mind has held me back and I’m trying to get around the rules inside my head. Thanks for the insight.

  13. says

    Hey Johnny, insight post and yet, so true.

    In this ever-changing world of the web, it doesn’t hurt to evolve and step out of your comfort zone. I followed a similar path of jumping from different subjects and experimenting with new things, then finding what it was that I loved doing and worked on it relentlessly.

    Cheers to your next 3 random, crazy, successful years.

  14. says

    I love many things about this post. But what I truly loved is when you talked about how knowledge is so accessible and that you don’t need to have certain skills. For me one of the hardest things to get over because of formal education was learning and memorizing and not really applying. I have learned to focus on specific skills now and not to try to learn everything because as you stated – most things can be outsourced. Plus, instead of memorizing I immediately put skills into practice now. Experience is the best teacher.

    • says

      Yep, and it actually goes hand-in-hand with a philosophy I’ve heard expounded (unsurprisingly) by the Google guys… that we’re moving from a paradigm of STORAGE to a paradigm of SEARCH. In other words, it’s starting to make less sense to archive data, and starting to make more sense instead to focus more on learning how to find the data when you need it.

  15. says

    It’s essential to be able to take learning into our own hands. Often times, our schools don’t teach us much about being able to lead (or some of the ones in my area). I think having that chance to be able to move forward with our own learning and adapting ourselves to the changes that are so rapidly taking place.

  16. says

    I love it that you unschool your kids! (This was always a goal of mine, but didn’t work out for various reasons.) More relevant to this post, I love your blog. I take something away from every post – whether it’s a handy tip or an inspiration. I’ve been culling the shockingly large number of blogs that I try to read, but Copyblogger always stays at the very top of my list.

  17. Marshall says

    I tried to sign up for the Friday Webinar but the sign up page keeps saying I am using an invalid email address. Tried my work one with same results. I would like to attend.

  18. says

    Hey Johnny, between you and me, I’m struggling with re-choosing my niche. I seem to have cultivated an audience that’s interested in my topic, but it’s not niche enough to help them with their specific issues. How do you justify changing the topic of your blog without worrying that your existing audience will get fed up because that’s not what they opted-in to?

      • says

        Yeah, I’ve done that once before, Erin. I’m a fan of what Brian is doing with Entreproducer. I think I just need to spend some time and niche down my topic. I appreciate the response!

    • says

      I am enjoying that your “between you and me” comment is posted in front of Copyblogger’s 100s of thousands of readers. :)

      I think what I failed to clearly convey is that change has to be gradual, and should have a purpose. If McDonald’s suddenly decided to stop selling hamburgers tomorrow, that’d be a bad move. But if there were suddenly a huge market for soy burgers, it would make sense to maybe consider expanding into that market. It could evolve from there as need justified. (But that’s a terrible example.)

      I think changing on a whim just for the hell of it and going 180 degrees in the other direction will definitely alienate your loyal readers. I’d urge expansion and slow change, not a de novo reinvention overnight.

      • says

        You mean, other people can read this?!

        I appreciate your response, Johnny. I think one thing you do well is that people choose to follow you and your thoughts, not necessarily subscribing because of the topic. At least, that’s how I perceive

        Keep it up! I set aside a whole day to watch your BA Project. Enjoyed it.

    • says

      Nicholas, I don’t pretend to know you deeply or your niche or anything, but I’d like to share my personal experiences with this.

      Often times something that’s “not niche enough” is simply due to a lack of creativity/fresh perspectives.

      If you’re passionate about something, it’s guaranteed to have a rewarding place in the world, when viewed from a more high-leverage angle.

      This isn’t a “niche” by itself, but it is a passion of mine:
      I love slang, ‘real talk’, swearing and language which connects with the masses, and at first I didn’t think it had a place or solved a specific problem in personal development or ‘success’ industries, but when I got creative, it fit just right :)

      Then I found Johnny B Truant and Ashley Ambirge (and Jon Morrow in a way…) :)

      • says

        Thanks for your thoughts, Jason. I’ve been hearing a lot lately how blogs need to find a sliver of a niche and dominate it. It’s good to be reminded that you don’t necessarily need to dominate a particular topic in order to add value to the world.

        Well done with your homepage video.

        • says

          My pleasure, Nicholas! It feels like you’re on a good path, and you’re certainly in good company with the CopyBlogger crowd :)

          And I’m glad you like the intro video, I made it myself

  19. says

    Johnny, you do lovable jackass SO well! :)

    I agree 10,000% with everything you’re saying. And, without Sonia’s beautifully stated comment, your post feels incomplete to me. Here’s her comment again:

    “I agree that it’s not just about wandering around — it’s about strategic evolution and adaptation, and most of all, paying attention to what’s really in front of you and not an abstract plan you had on paper.”

    Since I have a way of stating the obvious, I’d say that evolution implies a certain level of consciousness. There’s a HUGE difference between a entrepreneur noticing a surprising opportunity and deciding to go for it because it fits and one who’s scrambling around, chasing what’s rumored to be the “next hot thing”.

    Thanks for the awesome post and for everyone’s great comments!

  20. says


    Awesome dude… I have been very much into Leadership lately. The ability to lead is something that I think most perceive as a God-given trait when really I see it more as willingness to learn and adapt with a little bit of assertiveness thrown in.

    I also like how you mention you can learn anything. I tell insurance professionals all the time, “YOU ARE NO LONGER THE GATEKEEPERS TO INFORMATION!”

    As professionals we all used to hold onto our industry information for dear life… Now you can Google anything and everything…

    Great post!

    Ryan H.

    • says

      Seconded, Ryan :)

      My favourite thing about Johnny is he brings “lovable jackass” to topics like ‘meta-skills’.

      Hahaha.. so awesome, and so similar to myself 😀 #ryzeUP :)

  21. says

    Great post and right on the money. In the print media world, I’ve seen people whine about the way things *used* to be and how the industry is dying, and then I’ve seen people pick themselves up, brush themselves off, improve their skill set and watch their business skyrocket.

  22. says

    It’s all about changing your sub-conscience mind and getting it to stop sending those negative can’t do because you’re to dumb or you don’t deserve it thoughts to your conscience mind. Takes some reconditioning.

    Can’t make Friday, any chance you’ll record the session?

    • says

      I’m going to try, but GoToWebinar doesn’t support recording on Mac (WTF), so I’ll try a workaround…. then send it out to the list of registrants if it succeeds. So be sure to sign up just in case!

  23. Leo Garden says

    Great post dude! I’m gonna start collecting your headlines cause without this one i was so very close to pressing “delete!”

  24. says

    I really enjoyed this post. I’m interested in what led you to change direction from humorist to techie to coach and so on? I’m assuming the novel came more from a personal desire to tell a story. Were the business changes driven by you getting interested in new areas, or more by the people who you worked with asking for help in those areas? A lot of people talk about how Steve Jobs was so successful with Apple because he gave people what they didn’t know they wanted instead of asking them what they wanted. I’ve been in business for almost a year and my business has adapted and changed a great deal in that short time. Some of it has to do with what I enjoy doing, and some of it comes from getting out and talking to people about what I can do for them and seeing what they react to and are interested in.

    Isn’t it cool that we live in a time where technology just keeps making it easier and easier to implement these changes in direction as we analyze and adapt? The danger, as other posters have mentioned, is walking the line between becoming a dilettante and someone who evolves with the times.

  25. says

    Very powerful and true. Everything is changing around us and if we can’t evolve to change along with it, then we’re going to be left in the dust. I have dealt with many business owners like this and even though they may be aware of the change happening around them, they think they’re all fine and dandy sticking to their old ways.

    Great article!

  26. says

    I appreciated the reminder that I need to take risks. Sometimes it’s pretty hard to edge myself out there.

    But damnit, each time I do, whether or not things go the way I planned, I find that I learn a whole lot from the experience. :)

  27. says

    Nice to hear someone talking about the inner game because the outer game is just a reflection of the inner one.

    Personally I am a meditator, every morning I do it and through that I have, and still do, see the mental limitations I put on myself. My mind has a bag of tricks you wouldn’t believe, that it has used to deny me of good things and my potential most of my life but I am actually exited because I can see those tricks now and its just a matter of dealing with the the “habit” of them. Facing your inner enemies is the noblest path.

    Thanks for the post, I will be doing the webinar,

    cheers Ron

    • says

      Yep. I’ve often said in conversations with other entrepreneurs that it’s totally the inner game, because as this post points out, the outer stuff is almost all technical details or information that’s readily available nowadays.

  28. says

    What Can I Add To This?

    Nothing I cannot ad anything here except that THIS IS AWESOME! I hope that this covers it maybe?

    Thanks again you guys for writing such powerful words and giving so much REAL value to readers. I am honoured to be reading this and others should aswell. This kind of stuff is as rare as HONEST POLITICIANS!:) Keep it rocking and cannot wait until the next piece of genius writing!

    All the Best


  29. says

    Hi JT,

    Reading your post gave me a Christopher Columbus moment. He knew the world was flat and so did everyone else. But he got financing and set sail. We bloggers all know the odds are stacked, but we still write. Then you reset the compass so no one can stop. That’s a kick in the right direction.

    Leadership from a loveable jackass is a rare treat, but you pull it off by making the reader the leader. Don’t worry, I’ll keep the secret.

    Thanks loads,


  30. says

    Glad to read this post. I am focused on convincing the chamber of commerce industry that they need to evolve and evolve quick if they are going to remain relevant. Several of the “ol’ timers” remain unconvinced, even hostile. They have always done ribbon cuttings and always will!

    Matter of fact, just a few days ago I had an article turned down because it was 100 words too long. Too long? Post it to the blog for God’s sake. What can you do? They live in a paper world. Some will evolve and some will slowly fade away.

    Thanks for the pep talk.


  31. says

    I dunno Johnny, I think it’s bad to evolve too quickly. While I agree that “mindlessly sticking to what used to work is overrated”, so is jumping from one incarnation to another without seeing something through thoughtfully and strategically. And I hate to say it (let me put on my armour…), but it’s a bit like this post. You start out with some salient points about the importance of evolution and adaptation, and then you jump ship on that point of view and go off on one tangent after another – learn to solve problems…up your mental game…don’t internalize rules.

    Maybe you evolved this post a bit too quickly?

    • says

      I agree with Ruth. With the exception of one or two interesting sound bytes, and a handful of “golden nuggets” that I could read inside any fortune cookie (“learn to fish”…really?), I found this post empty and rambly.

      By the way, doesn’t anyone around here ever disagree with anyone?

        • says

          Sonia – how do I become a member of that club where everyone always agrees with my point of view???? I’ll pay big bucks for no disagreement – and run from my family who always disagrees with me!

          • says

            Hahahaha… Sonia, Brian — it feels ambiguous to me whether this was a joke or not, but I love it all the same. Awesome.

            On agreement:
            Minimal disagreement often indicates:

            1) A highly-filtered gathering of like-minds, who differ rarely on major topics.
            (solution: introduce well-intentioned, intelligent rebel, someone get Richard Branson over here, stat)

            2) Fear of upsetting the status quo
            (solution: Reward and appreciate the tiniest seeds of upset, and ‘train’ people to open up more.)

    • says

      I don’t know if this counts as disagreement, but I see a path the takes the best of both Johnny’s view and Ruth’s.

      “Oh noes! Change is vital – change more!”
      “OMG, don’t change too fast!”

      To me, it’s all about balance.

      Life’s made up of cycles and pendulums, and anytime it swings “too far” for one person, might be “just the right swing” for another.

      Whenever this disagreement about “change” its usually by one person who’s life is totally in need of a swing towards one side or the other, vs. a person who’s life is off-balance in the other way, and so they feel personally about it.

  32. says

    “The ability to evolve” — what a 10-cent platitude.

    Google was born of intellectual passion on Standford’s dollar not business acumen, so the argument is misleading. At the point where diversification into other major markets is even on the table, it’s a little disingenuous to consider yourself an entrepreneur, you’re a different animal. “Scrappy Google! Share price over $600 and still evolving into new markets.”

    You make some interesting points, and your headline got me to read the post, but I wish the content was fresher and factoid-y.

  33. says

    3 years ago I was a fiduciary asset manager. Window office, assistants, series 7 license, the works. and now….I’m not. so there’s that.

  34. says

    Wow brilliant I couldn’t agree more. It’s amazing how fast top dogs get knocked off overnight because they got comfortable. Just like life business is a ongoing ever changing process that requires keen observation skills and the ability to take smart risks.

  35. Liz Sinclair says

    Great story – thanks for sharing your journey. Meta-skills sounds like a dynamic topic – fertile ground for digital publishing pursuits, perhaps?

  36. says

    I am a huge fan of meta skills and personally wear many hats including e-commerce, affiliate marketing, adsense, blogging and offline consulting, although there is a fine line between mastering a skill and being mediocre with many skills and most cases being a master is the real key to success (at least that’s what I have learnt)

  37. says

    This is a timely article for me. For the last 18 years, I have worked in technology, and I have a well-rounded and in-depth skill set. Recently, I left that industry and moved into the editing biz. About two months into that, however, I ended up in a situation where I am creating websites for a group that is involved in marketing for indie authors (which is my target market for editing.)

    I am working on two websites in fact, and they fall within the scope of what you talked about in your experience above. I have always been the type of person you described, and could not be any other way–I would get too bored with life. I could not imagine being the type of person that became “content in mediocrity.”

    Of course, in order to be this type of person, one has to commit to studying constantly, learning new skills regularly, and must endeavor to be a polymath. I didn’t even know what that was until last year, when someone tagged me as such. I’ve never been called a jackass; that’s quite mild compared to that which has been assigned to me. It doesn’t matter though, because I have succeeded in whatever I do. Why? Because failure has never crossed my mind. I finally realized about 2 years ago why I rarely failed. It’s specifically BECAUSE it never crossed my mind to do so. My definition of failure was and still is quite different from everyone else’s. If something didn’t work for me, I just tried something else. It never occurred to me to give up. It never occurred to me that if something didn’t work, that was “failure.” That was how I was raised, and I guess a part of it is inherent in me.

    So, long story long, thank you for writing this for people. We live in a world where adaptation is not only critical, but necessary. And that’s only if you want to keep up. If you want to be an actual player, you have to be at the forefront. You don’t have to be the innovator, but you at least have to be the person who can take the innovation and make it better.

  38. says

    LOVE this post. As a motivational speaker, you are speaking my language! What relevant information. It made my day better. Now I’m going to share it on my blog ( so it can make everybody else’s day better too.

  39. says

    Niche is overrated and overplayed.

    Yes, being niche and relevancy and building authority et al are proven for short term success (and important regardless of industry/offline or online), but what about sustainability?

    Don’t really want to be defined by any “one” thing … rather light it on fire and change course before my ideas/platform becomes stale.

    I say build it, embrace it – but be open to evolving when stagnation creeps in.

    Love this Johnny. Thank you!

  40. says

    I read this and immediately thought about how our small business has evolved over the years. We began as something totally different just 3-4 years ago and now that has changed. The great thing about online stores, services, etc… is you have data with everything you do.

    If customers are asking for something different, you change gears. We have several small online ventures going and as a family, we love what we do. Entrepreneurs cannot be afraid of change or sometimes be too hard headed to listen to your own customer base. :-)

    At times it feels like we have too many projects in the air, but they all are similar enough that we are not pulled in entirely different directions. All the business ideas are complementary, which helps a lot for those of us who want to keep our businesses small enough to still be fun, but profitable enough to excel.

  41. says

    Great insights. I coach a lot on positioning as a niche expert and it is so important to have a niche but it’s not set in stone as you so rightly point out.

    Entrepreneurs and writers by their very nature seek constant development and change so start with the best niche for you but be open to adapt as new niches find you.

    Sometimes you niche is not what you thought at all!

  42. says

    I’ve been an entrepreneur for 23 years and I totally agree with you about the need to evolve. When I started, there was no email, Internet, or cell phones! Which makes me sound ancient of course!

    Because technology is opening up new possibilities for entrepreneurs every day, our businesses will naturally have to change. Today, I make 99% of my income online selling my own information products in 21 countries, which would have been impossible such a short time ago.

    I would put resourcefulness as the number 1 quality even ahead of the ability to evolve however. Look at your own path, if you hadn’t been resourceful, you wouldn’t have seen (or navigated your way through) any of those evolutions.

  43. says

    A great post, and some great follow up comments, so thanks to all but especially Johnny of course.

    Over the years I have evolved several strings to my bow, sometimes falling into the trap of trying to do too many things and doing nothing well as a result. As another commenter above has said though, I haven’t viewed this as a failure but rather a learning experience.

    For the most part I am now focussed on 3 or 4 main avenues, and actively pursue these. They’re not necessarily complimentary, and certainly not at first glance (although skills are starting to transfer across), but I do enjoy them all and they are all progressing.

    My next plan to to try and pull these strands together, to produce a more coherent whole. Depending upon other commitments, that’ll hopefully happen in 2012.

    Oh and to the commenter who quoted Michael Gerber and said that you aren’t in business until you have staff, I kind of agree. I couldn’t have achieved what I have, or even keep doing what I do, without some help as there simply aren’t enough hours in the day. But I don’t have the space, revenue stream, or even need for several full-time staff with specialist skills. The solution, for me at least, has been to build a team of outsourced workers whose specialist skills I can buy by the hour, as and when needed. There are many websites that make this very easy to do.

  44. says

    This was a great post! Thanks so much. Very encouraging because this sort of mirrors my own journey, and I kept hearing I was “wrong” to make these shifts. Thanks for the support!

    I homeschooled my kids – started out doing “School at home” and then due to a nervous breakdown, sort of, we started unschooling and have never looked back. Both kids have taught themselves incredibly marketable skills, because I realized that the more I interfered with their learning, the less they learned.

    Looking forward to watching the webinar…


  45. says

    Let me add to the inner game piece…

    GIFTS for the LONG RUN
    It appears that while you (Johnny) were evolving, your gifts were at play the whole time. I would guess that those are something like: ‘challenging with compassion’ and ‘pointing to the ethereal with everyday language’. I believe my gifts are really the core driver behind anything I do, and when I know those deeply, I can strengthen them and bring them into any context my heart desires.

    Considering decision making, like when to change course… When I base my decisions on values it looks like using the lens of “is this new thing right for me?” including the question, “is changing my focus now right for me?” It does seem to be a gut-based approach to seeking direction. From inner guidance, I can balance between evolving and getting distracted by shiny quarters (“SQUIRREL!!!”).

  46. LauraLea Keays says

    Hi there. I thoroughly enjoyed this article and it absolutely applies to me right NOW. I just graduated from Full Sail University with my Entertainment Business Bachelors degree and a 3.66 GPA, pursuing a pay-it-forward way to combine my lifetime as an entertainer/singer, with working with kids, promoting recycling in Central Florida. I started a recycling service for businesses last year that has potential for growth and everyone thinks I’m ‘on my way’, yet everything is at some kind of scary stand still for me mentally. I think I know WHAT to do, but I can’t seem to get out there and do it. I understand your observations about being willing to evolve, and as the whole world goes green, I feel pretty sure things will work out, but I’m going to re-read this article and watch the webinar, plus I will try to refer daily to the screen shot of ‘Meta-Skills’.. Thanks for the rah-rah! LL

  47. says

    You ask, “how are you struggling in your mental game?” to help start a conversation. I will oblige, if for no other reason than a desire to put it out there, maybe understand it a bit by writing it, and then hopefully conquer these struggles a bit at a time.

    Before I dive into struggles, I’ll touch on my perceived strengths. On the topic of this post, I learn almost continually. I research, plan, document and communicate. I think about how people think, act and feel. And in the area of skills I have (but could be out-sourced or learned), I know how to code, to troubleshoot and build new things. I’m cautious and risk averse, and have built a very conservative buffer into my plans.

    However, in learning, I don’t necessarily evolve. I don’t change from someone who does “this” into someone that does “that.” This is because I talk and think about things, but I do not do them. I tell myself I will do them. I tell myself that doing some other things like eating healthy and exercising so that my brain works fairly well will go far in supporting my desire to do those things. I tell myself that reading so many books and articles will teach me what I need to know to do things and succeed. I even tell myself that doing things, even if I get it wrong, would really go a long way in actually doing things, and learning how to do things.

    But there is a frustration, a fear of inadequacy, a struggle to make actual, real world progress. Perhaps it’s just that I’m trying to learn several technologies at once, while designing a project on the fly (while learning design), and hitting roadblocks along the way that slow me down and give me enough of a pause to find distraction off the original course. There is an uncertainty of what I can do on my own, what I should learn and master and achieve, and what I should turn to others to do. There is a lot of discomfort in asking others for help, and especially in urging and pushing others to help. There is fear. Fear that I don’t have enough time or energy in a day to make progress on what matters while spending my days doing things that matter much less to me. Fear that I could leave a full-time job, and put much more time and energy into the things I care about, and possibly even then still fail to progress.

    After all the thinking and talking and planning, I am not making great leaps (or small ones). Often, I’m simply not doing. I’m running away from success (which perhaps I fear, as it relates to responsibility and commitment) and allowing distractions (and I don’t mean self-directed play) and I’m being social when a part of me knows that the other things that matter to me, matter to me more.

    I am not looking for a response, or answers. I am being vulnerable, and hopefully taking a small risk and being optimistic that it’s another baby step in a positive direction!

  48. says

    I think any progress is progress. If you make any sort of effort, even if it looks like a failure. Being able to adapt from what you are learning goes a long way towards helping you succeed in the next venture (if you so choose to pursue that).

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