A successful entrepreneur shares her thoughts on business success and failure.

There Is No "Savior"

There is no savior. I was talking with Clay Collins this past weekend (Clay is someone you should get to know, by the way) and he brought up an interesting point: Many people expect that they will be “discovered” by a “savior” and then–then!–everything will be set for them.

This is a dangerous attitude. It puts your fate in the hands of others. You expect to be discovered and then are crushed when no one pays attention to you. You put all your chips on the next interview, the next blog post, the next publicist or editor or meeting with a potential client. You set yourself up to be devastated when things don’t work out exactly as planned. And, if you’re not careful, this can quickly turn into bitterness at how “they” got discovered when you–the person with better talent! who is more awesome!–didn’t.

I’ve come pretty close to falling into this trap a hundred times or more. Let me show you a recent example:

How to Set Yourself Up for Disappointment

I first heard of Pat Flynn (of the Smart Passive Income blog) in January, 2009, when Lazy Man and Money (another real-life friend of mine) wrote a blog post about him. Since then, I’ve followed Pat’s blog, had lunch with him a bunch of times, and become friends with him.

Pat mentions two things when people ask him how his blog got so popular so fast: the original post on Lazy Man and Money, and then a blockbuster interview with Yaro Starak, which drove more than 4,000 visitors to his blog and jump-started a whole bunch of word of mouth. In fact, in a more recent post, Pat highlights the original post on Lazy Man as a turning point, and writes “Since that day, my traffic has grown and I haven’t looked back since.”

Right after Pat got interviewed by Yaro, he and I went out to lunch, and he mentioned how much traffic he got from it. That was the first month his blog beat mine in terms of traffic.

Since the interview with Yaro was such a turning point for Pat, and after listening to Pat talk about how much traffic he got, I just knew I had to get an interview with Yaro. I emailed Yaro and got shoved aside. I emailed again. Somehow our wires got crossed on the time that the interview was supposed to be (darn time zones!) and we couldn’t do the interview. I emailed Yaro again. Finally we connected, and as promised, Yaro ran the interview with me a short while later.

I waited for the traffic to come. I excitedly checked my stats! This was it! It had worked so well for Pat! It had made him Internet famous!

A few days later, I had to accept that what had worked for Pat hadn’t worked for me. The total traffic the interview with Yaro sent me? 412 visitors. Total subscribe rate was pretty good–nearly 13% of the visitors opted in, and I received 53 new subscribers. But it was a tenth of what Pat had received for the same thing.

I was devastated.

I tried to figure out what went wrong. Finally, I opened up Pat’s interview and my interview side by side, and only then did I understand what happened:

interviews by Yaro Starak

Pat’s interview was titled: “How Pat Flynn Lost His Job Then Made $203,219.04 In His First Year Online.” And the click-through to Pat’s site–the call to action–said: “After just one year of running his online business he has made $203,219.04, as reported in his Annual Passive Income Report.

This is an inspiring story, no? Heck, I clicked through, and I was already reading Pat’s blog at that point!

My interview title said: “How Erica Douglass Sold Her Hosting Business For $1.1 Million.” And the click-through to my site said: “If you’re interested in running a web services company, this is definitely a podcast interview worth listening. You can learn more about Erica at her Erica.biz blog.”

No wonder no one clicked through! When I read it, side by side, like that, I understood.

The Self-Destructive B.S. Moment

And then I hated myself…for just a few brief minutes. I was so upset, but not as much with Yaro as with myself. I wished I had a blog that was regularly doing 5 figures a month. I certainly didn’t make over $200,000 in my first year online. (My first year online was 1995, and my first online job–at an SEO company–was in 1997.) It took my web hosting company several years to hit $200,000 in annual revenue.

Then I realized I had to stop with the self-destructive B.S. I was putting myself through. Heck, Mark Zuckerberg kicked all of our butts. Larry and Sergey (the Google founders) were billionaires by their early 30’s. As Clay pointed out to me in that conversation this past weekend, even the millionaires compare themselves to the billionaires and feel they fall short. There is always someone more attractive, with more money, and a better lifestyle than you have. And even emulating their exact footsteps won’t get you where they are in many cases–just as me getting an interview with Yaro didn’t make my blog explode like Pat’s did.

Finally, I had to adjust my feelings to be happy for Pat instead of jealous of him. (He really is a great guy who deserves all the success he’s gotten with his business and blog!)

How Can You Prevent This From Happening to You?

There are two things you can do to prevent your own self-destructive B.S. moment from happening. The first thing is to realize that there is no “savior”. There’s probably not one person or event that will “save” your business or blog or catapult you into the mainstream. Rather, it’s consistent effort that pays off. It’s the daily grind of writing, finding customers, and making sure your existing customers and/or community are happy that pays dividends in the long run.

And the second thing is to not be too devastated when something doesn’t work out as planned. There is always another appearance, another book, and another customer to help. I know it’s easier said than done. Allow yourself to feel like crap when something doesn’t work out. Allow yourself the tears and anger and “why me” pity party–for a few minutes. But then pick yourself back up and keep fighting the good fight.

And if you want something inspiring to take home, know this: My web hosting company was never the “flavor of the week” on Web Hosting Talk. We certainly weren’t the biggest company, or the most profitable, and we had the worst website. We were never once “discovered”, and I did a whole lot of things wrong with that company. But it still, after 6 years, was a 7-figure business. If you take anything from that, take away this: You don’t need to be “discovered.” You need to do consistently good stuff and take opportunities as they come. And if you keep working every day on your business and/or blog, eventually, you’ll find what you’re looking for.

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After selling my online business at age 26 for over $1 million, I created this blog to help you grow your own business quickly.

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