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.
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.