I see a very dangerous flaw in most people that are chasing success, and unless corrected they’ll forever struggle to have long term success.
Stop doing things because it’s what people say to be doing, and start doing them because they’re why you should be doing them.
We touched on this in Entrepreneurial Quicksand, but it’s so important I wanted to dive further into this entrepreneurial death trap people are on.
The tendency is for people to listen to those having some results they’d like to have, and then follow whatever they’re doing. You’ll struggle significantly for as long as this habit remains. I’m going to demonstrate why with an example:
Let’s pretend someone sold apples. They were pretty much by themselves on a street with their apple stand, selling their apples. They were crushing it.
Well, they started talking about how much they were crushing it selling apples. So, more people started selling apples. They realized this was an opportunity, so started selling those people information about selling apples, increasing their “apple empire” even more.
Now people REALLY wanted to sell apples.
So more people set up on the same block to sell apples. It was basically apple seller after apple seller selling the same types of apples.
Many struggled to make any sales.
Johnny Appleseed continued to talk about how much he was crushing it.
“Dude, Johnny is making even MORE, we’ve got to keep trying.”
Johnny’s apple business growth slowed due to all the new competition but the info business about apples was now raking in loot for him. So, he kept the apple stand and people kept coming to see him because of how well known he was for his apple business. People saw all the attention he was getting and it confused them into thinking they should start an apple stand.
Here’s what they didn’t understand… Johnny did make money on apples. But, once everyone started selling apples his stand was no longer making money because he had apples, he was making his money from telling other people to sell apples. Selling apples wasn’t even a good opportunity anymore.
It should have been obvious to anyone thinking of starting a business that they should not be selling apples. I mean, shit, you could look down the road and see that literally EVERYONE was selling apples. The same f*$king apples.
Billy: Why are you starting an apple stand?
Sam: Dude, to make money. Johnny makes $20k/month from his stand.
Billy: How much are you making?
Sam: Nothing yet, but Johnny says I just got to keep at it and follow my dreams.
Billy: Do you agree with that?
Sam: Dude, Johnny makes $20k/month.
Billy: What does that have to do with whether you agree with it or not?
Sam: Well, he makes $20k/month. I want to make that!
Billy: And do you think following the path he’s suggesting will do that for you?
Sam: I sure hope so!
Billy: But, why not figure it out rather than relying on luck?
Sam: How do I do that?
Billy: Well, why don’t you begin by breaking down how Johnny has made his money, and how you’re attempting to make your money.
Sam: Okay, where do I start?
Billy: Well, you say that Johnny makes $20k/month, where does it come from?
Sam: From his apple stand! Look! Don’t you see all the people there.
Billy: Ya, seems like a lot of foot traffic. Very popular stand for sure. Have you thought to look at what they’re buying from him?
Sam: Dude, it’s all about apples can’t you see!?
Billy: So, why are they buying apple related things from him and not from you?
Sam: He’s known for selling apples, so people already know him, and they don’t know me.
Billy: Why don’t they know you?
Sam: Because I haven’t been around long enough, I just need to keep plugging away and get my name out there.
Billy: Plugging away at what?
Sam: Selling apples!
Billy: Why selling apples?
Sam: Dude! Aren’t you listening? I want to make money.
Billy: What does you wanting to make money have to do with selling apples?
Sam: If Johnny makes $20k/month why wouldn’t I start an apple business. Even if I can just get a piece of that market I’ll be so happy.
Billy: Is the only reason you started an apple business because you heard Johnny was making a lot of money from his?
Sam: Ya, I guess so.
Billy: So, let’s bring some logic into this… Take a look down the street
Billy: Everyone is doing the same thing as you. Some of their apples are slightly different, but for the most part it’s all the same. So, while the apple stand business was probably a great idea when Johnny started, it’s unlikely to be anymore since everyone else is doing it.
Sam: Ya, but Johnny…
Billy: Johnny what? Makes $20k/month, right? How much of that is from selling apples?
Sam: I don’t know.
Billy: Well, let’s go hang by his stand for a little while.
Billy: How much of his revenue is from apples?
Sam: A pretty small fraction.
Billy: What’s the rest from?
Sam: Mainly his information on how to set up your own apple stand.
Billy: So, what does that tell you?
Sam: That I should sell information about setting up a profitable apple stand!
Billy: But you don’t know HOW to start a profitable apple stand.
Sam: Ya but that’s where Johnny is making all of his money now! I get what you’re saying.
Billy: Umm… no you don’t. I didn’t say to copy what Johnny is currently doing to make money. That’s what got you into the position you’re in now. Blindly following what someone else is doing because they make money at it and you want to too.
Let me ask you this. Why do you think Johnny made money selling apples initially?
Billy: No one else was selling apples on this street.
People wanted apples, and no one was selling them here so he did, and profited for doing so.
Sam: So, should I go to another place to sell my apples instead?
Billy: Well, that’d be one idea. But, people have already started to figure that out. When I drove in I saw multiple people selling apples on streets where no one was there previously.
It used to just be ‘apples row’, now they’ve spread out all over the place.
Why would you want to sell the same things to the same market as everyone else? You’d do much better to sell to a different audience, and/or to sell a different kind of apple to the same audience.
Sam: You’re right! That’s what I’ll do.
Billy: Well, I didn’t say to do that. I just said you’d be much better off doing that. I didn’t say it’s optimal.
Sam: Well, what would be optimal? Selling info right?
Billy: I definitely didn’t say that. Don’t fall into the guru trap. If you’re going to sell information, that information should be significantly better than what already exists in the market. It should solve a need, not clutter up the world with another info seller because you want to make money. That’s what’s leading to your struggles. You’re trying to make money, instead of trying to offer value. This is leading to a blind following of what someone else is doing without understanding why that person is successful with it.
Often someone was successful because they offered value in a certain way that wasn’t being offered when they started offering it. So if you try to offer that same value after they did it, they already filled the gap that previously existed. It’s not there anymore, so expecting to replicate their results from buying a course from them is not likely to happen.
Sam: So what should I do?
Billy: I’d advise breaking down why they were successful in the first place.
Why was Johnny successful selling apples initially?
Sam: I’m not sure.
Billy: Because he was the only one selling them anywhere near this busy street. People wanted apples and no one was offering them so Johnny did. So, he profited from filling a need that people were willing to pay for.
Then he started talking about how much money he was making. So, people started asking Johnny how to do it. He’d created a demand for this information. So, he filled that need as well. This is why you and the other apple sellers are struggling. Johnny already filled those gaps. To do the same thing as Johnny and expect the same success in the same market is ludicrous, because the gaps no longer exist. Gaps temporarily existed in other markets in the same space, but they are often smaller gaps, and once it’s popularized they disappear very quickly.
A more optimal investment of your time would be to fully understand why Johnny has been successful. It has nothing to do with what Johnny is selling, it has to do with why he is selling it, and how he went about it.
Billy: You see, Johnny is not teaching others to think, he is just teaching them what to do. You must learn to think, or you will always be one step behind. That is where the all long term success is.
You should not be asking, “how can I do exactly what Johnny is doing to sell apples?”. That is making Johnny rich, and you poor.
You should be thinking, how can I replicate the success Johnny has had in a completely different market? How can I provide value in a place where a gap in the market currently exists, much like it did before Johnny started selling apples, and before he was teaching other people to sell apples.
It’s the difference between trying to make something from the leftover scraps off an industry that’s already been tapped, and filling a gap that has not yet been filled. That is where the gold is. You don’t dig for gold where everyone has already mined. The goldmine is where others have yet to stake their claim.
That is yours for the taking if you spend your time evaluating where gaps like that may be, and then taking action to fill the existing gap in the market.
Your goal shouldn’t be to create another apple stand, it should be to create an empire outside of the apple market by filling gaps in a market the same way Johnny did with the apple empire, in the apple market.
Handing someone money to tell you what to do in a market where the gap does not even exist is nothing but a comedy show. The guru is the only one laughing. They roar loudest on the way to the bank, but all they’re doing if they have not taught you how to think is withdrawing from your account and depositing it in theirs.
Learning how to think is the only way to progress.
Learning what someone did is largely irrelevant unless you fully understand why and how they did what they did.
That is where thinking comes in, and is what no one is teaching how to do.
Blessed is he who has been able to win knowledge of the causes of things. -Virgil
Ask yourself, have you been inadvertently following a Johnny Appleseed? How’s that route going so far?
The tips and tricks they’ve shared may in fact be good for your apple stand, but the more important question is, why do you even have an apple stand?
Once you learn to think for yourself, the view of the whole world will change, and the level of your potential success along with it.