A quick note about the term “guru”. I do not wish to align the online teachers, who are working hard, for the great part, to teach and help people. But I want to outline problems I see in the system. So, I use it in a general sense—one who positions him or herself as a teacher with knowledge, in such a way that it seems to exude an aura of tremendous knowledge.

I begin by telling the story of my friend’s husband—although I don’t do this in the video, let’s call him Jake (not his real name).

Jake is a very kind and thoughtful human who has been in an industry which is well-paying, but left him no space for his creative self, and he did not feel that he was fully aligned with doing good in the world. He came into contact with an online teacher (which I had worked with, by chance, some years ago).

The basic message of the teacher is: you can find your tribe and inspire them, teach them, show them something wonderful, and create a meaningful, lucrative business doing so. She shows testimonial after testimonial, sharing their successes from her method. It’s very inspiring, and basically she says, you can do what I am doing.

And indeed, this process had worked extremely well for her. She’d been making next to nothing in another writing capacity, and taken the workshop of a local “guru” couple, who’d taught her how to do this, and as I say, it was working! She had grown into low six figures, to mid six-figures, and then beyond, in just a few years. So the multiplication power of this kind of thing is real for some, and obviously it was providing some forms of value.

Bottom line, Jake got very inspired. And by going up level by level in her programs, he got into an “inner circle” program, where he paid $20,000 for a year. Of course, the promise is that you will finally realize your true potential. Once and for all, you will create a lucrative business where you can serve people who care about your work; be seen; and then you can quit your soul-destroying humdrum work.

Jake had no background in entrepreneurship, Internet marketing, or online anything. He was a “virgin”, if you will, and was totally inspired.

So, Jake kept finding that the inner circle coaching program, that he’d paid so much for, wasn’t working for him. I’m not sure why, but it wasn’t what he’d expected. Were things painted with too rosy a brush? Did too many visions of sugar plums dance in his head? Perhaps it could be said that this was his problem; perhaps nothing was specifically promised, other than what was delivered. And yet…

And yet, I feel we work with something precious, when we work with someone’s inspiration. The more you are working with professionals, the more you may just be providing a technical service. But when it’s a beginner, you’re playing with their hopes and dreams. It seems so unfair not to treat that with respect. And this is why Jake’s story moves me so.

So, Jake contacted this teacher and asked for his money back. “I’m so disappointed, Jake,” she said. As though he had done something wrong, or hadn’t sort of, applied the magic in the right way, or something. Bottom line: she said she did not give refunds, and that was that. He left the program, and he lost $20,000. But bigger than that, he lost his hope.

The truth is, I don’t think this guy really needed to learn inspirational copywriting, plus some ideas on how to create online courses—I mean, I’m sure there was some good stuff in there. But he had no business fundamentals. I’m really not sure what was missing—but whatever it was, this one woman’s program didn’t quite cut it for him, and I don’t think it was just because he “gave up”. The way I was told the story, anyway, it really just wasn’t what he expected.

One of the things that happens with these types of programs, is a ratcheting up, as in: “If you’re finding that this level of the program is not working for you, that’s because this is just a more basic program; once you join the bigger program, then all will be revealed. —Until you find yourself having paid a lot of money. Sometimes, I am sure it works, for some people. But—and this is a question that is so easy to obscure online—what percentage? It’s an important question.

Now, to be fair, you can only help people who are willing to put in the work, and it would only be fair to measure a percentage of those really had (but hopefully everyone did at least know what they were getting into).

The implication was that Jake wasn’t believing enough. In the magic. He didn’t have enough faith. (Doesn’t this start to sound a little bit cult-like?)

So, Jake ended with a sense of failure, and went back to his golden handcuff-type job, so that he could continue to support a family.

Here is another place where it’s so wonderful where we’ve gotten rid of the experts in ways that they might not be helpful—no need for certifications, etc., —and yet, we’ve lost the chains of transmission of solid business fundamentals, as well.

I feel Jake was built up and built up and built up, about this wonderful, incredible thing of finally realizing his dream. In Seth Godin’s terms—this teacher is very very good at building tension. By promising and promising that the success and happiness is just around the next curve, you can keep people engaged, and paying larger and larger sums of money.

A big question for me, that I have been posing for a long time, is: How do you best create an entrepreneurial ecosystem that truly supports the healthy, long-term growth of widespread cultures of entrepreneurism? I think it does not look the same as this. It asks deeper questions.

It is extraordinarily important to me, that we learn how to create actual success, and not just talk about it. There is a relation between belief and success—but it is not a linear one.

Let’s look at the promises—this hope—as akin to sugar in the diet. We were of course evolved to find sugar exciting, because it produces quick energy and therefore it tastes good. But in nature, it was not possible to get it fully extracted, or at limitless quantities. Our society has become so clever, that we are able to extract large amounts of sugar. The delivery of low-quality sugary foods is very efficient, whereas more carefully crafted foods require a lot more work. Lower margins, perhaps, or the necessity of seeking more specialized markets for those foods.

In a fashion that is surprisingly parallel, I feel that the guru complex plays on people’s hopes and dreams, without necessarily grounding it in those things that are harder to sell. No, of course the guru is not responsible for whether the aspiring entrepreneur executes her steps well or not. She is not responsible for that, other than which she is presiding over. There is seldom a promise in her (or his) marketing that is abjectly false.

And yet… And yet, if what we truly want is to create a system of collective success that survives over time, we cannot allow ourselves to focus only on the sugar. We have to produce healthy and nourishing foods that play a role in the healthy diet of the people we want to serve.

You might think of any business training program as consisting of sweeteners (inspiring hopes and dreams that propel people forward, but do not necessarily sustain us through the darker nights of the process); proteins (giving slower doses of inspiration, perhaps, but building our resources of the long term, that will serve us when things come up); healthy fats (harder to digest, but ultimately more sustaining); and vitamins and minerals (supplies that strengthen the health of our structure)

Anyone who looks at the actual journeys of entrepreneurs, will recognize the fall-off tendency of the vast majority of them. People will fall off at various stages, for various reasons. But these can be identified: lack of funds of course; but just as importantly, lack of motivation, lack of support, lack of emotional endurance. Some will fall off simply because they were not right for such an endeavor.

And the entrepreneur can fall off because she was never prepared for the journey. She trusted the ones she first met—the ones who were outfitting her for the journey, at the edge of the civilized territory….

If the outfitter told her she would need lots of sweet things—because this was a sweet journey, full of promise and hope—would she not be likely wear out quickly, either to rush back to the safety of civilization, or die upon the road?

If I were the outfitter, I would want to make sure the sleds were stocked with all this adventurer needed to make it as far as possible, and have the best possible chance. I would know I could not predict all that they would encounter. They would have to forge their own path. And yet, my own experiences out there, as well as the hundreds of others I had outfitted for similar journeys, would give me some idea of the types of provisions to lay by. I would most definitely not just want to sell them promises of gold and riches, or glory and excitement. I would also want to be sure they were prepared.

As a copywriter, the particular guru in this story is particularly skilled in pumping up the great promises of happiness that lie on the other side of an imagined journey of success and happiness. This is their great gift. They are masterfully doing this, and speaking to a specific set of idealistic people who hope to make a difference in the work that they do. Copywriting is so much about promises, and creating hope and inspiration.

Now, this “hyping people up” a bit, is not necessarily, a bad thing alltogether—you actually do need to keep going and persisting, past all sorts of obstacles, and the carrot of hope is very important there.

And you do need the help of others.

Perhaps where this system distorts what is needed—in some critical ways—is: by turning the inspiration meter (the sugar) so high, without giving them the protein, vitamins, and minerals, that they will need to strengthen a healthy entrepreneurial self, ready to weather the storms and difficulties.

So, Jacob kept finding that the inner circle coaching program, that he’d paid so much for, wasn’t working for him. I’m not sure why, but it wasn’t what he’d expected. Were things painted with too rosy a brush? Did too many visions of sugar plums dance in his head? Perhaps it could be said that this was his problem; perhaps nothing was specifically promised, other than what was delivered. And yet…

And yet, I feel we work with something precious, when we work with someone’s inspiration. The more you are working with professionals, the more you may just be providing a technical service. But when it’s a beginner, you’re playing with their hopes and dreams. It seems so unfair not to treat that with respect. And this is why Jacob’s story moves me so.

So, Jacob contacted this teacher and asked for his money back. “I’m so disappointed, Jacob,” she apparently said. As though he had done something wrong, or hadn’t sort of, applied the magic in the right way, or something. Bottom line: she said she did not give refunds, and that was that. He left the program, and he lost $20,000. But bigger than that, he lost his hope.

The truth is, I don’t think this guy really needed to learn inspirational copywriting, plus some ideas on how to create online courses—I’m sure there was some good stuff in there. But he had no business fundamentals. I’m really not sure what was missing, but whatever it was, this one woman’s program didn’t quite cut it for him, and I don’t think it was just because he “gave up”.

One of the things that happens with these types of programs, is a ratcheting up, as in: “If you’re finding that this level of the program is not working for you, that’s because this is just a more basic program; once you join the bigger program, then all will be revealed. —Until you find yourself having paid a lot of money. Sometimes, I’m sure it works, for some people. But—and this is a question that is so easy to obscure online—what percentage? It’s an important question.

One of the components here, is the real phenomenon that when you pay more money for something, you tend to take it more seriously. It’s incredible—people will all of a sudden be willing to do things they weren’t before; their belief becomes so great that they can transform. And yet—does that mean that the content of the program doesn’t need to be right for that person, for it to be the most helpful for them?

To be fair, you can only help people who are willing to put in the work, and it would only be fair to measure a percentage of those really had (but hopefully everyone did at least know what they were getting into).

The implication, was that Jacob wasn’t believing enough. In the magic. He didn’t have enough faith. (Doesn’t this start to sound a little bit cult-like?)

So, Jacob ended with a sense of failure, and went back to his golden handcuff-type job, so that he could continue to support a family.

Here is another place where it’s so wonderful where we’ve gotten rid of the experts in ways that they might not be helpful—no need for certifications, etc., —and yet, we’ve lost the chains of transmission of solid business fundamentals, as well.

And here is where dynamics can get toxic online.

If you’re in a village, and you make bread, and your bread is bad, you’ll soon go out of business. Because the finite audience for your bread will tell each other not to buy your bread. But if you’re online, there is an infinite audience, who can’t really talk to one another.

And so what these businesses do, is use testimonials of people who loved their programs. So, let’s say a guru has an online training with 100 participants, and 1% of them loved it, and found it really helped them. Well next week, that person’s smiling face, and effusive testimonial about how much money they made, or how much better their live is now—that will be on the website next week.

And from that, maybe the guru gets 300 students next time, and now can add 3 or 4 more testimonials. Well, when you get about 12, that’s all you really need. And you have an unlimited pool of people to pull from, who are all hoping against hope that they’ll be able to live on a beach somewhere, and work from their laptop for an hour a day, or whatever their dream is. And it’s nice to have dreams, but these things are pumped up and pumped up and pumped up with promises.

There’s no rating system, there’s no external validator. There’s no telling if this teacher understand business from a well-rounded perspective, or what the general outcomes and results are over time. And there’s no telling if this is really the best way to teach.

And it’s easy to keep believing your own kool aid. Look it worked for me!

The term for this is confirmation bias, or survivorship bias.

Survivorship bias

From Wikipedia

Survivorship bias or survival bias is the logical error of concentrating on the people or things that made it past some selection process and overlooking those that did not, typically because of their lack of visibility. This can lead to false conclusions in several different ways. It is a form of selection bias.

Survivorship bias can lead to overly optimistic beliefs because failures are ignored, such as when companies that no longer exist are excluded from analyses of financial performance. It can also lead to the false belief that the successes in a group have some special property, rather than just coincidence (correlation proves causality). For example, if three of the five students with the best college grades went from the same high school, that can lead one to believe that the high school must offer an excellent education. This could be true, but the question cannot be answered without looking at the grades of all the other students from that high school, not just the ones who “survived” the top-five selection process. Another example of a distinct mode of survivorship bias would be thinking that an incident was not as dangerous as it was because everyone you communicate with afterwards survived. Even if you knew that some people are dead, they wouldn’t have their voice to add to the conversation, leading to bias in the conversation.

The guru says “I followed the easy steps, and now I am successful. And here are the steps—now you can do it.” And whatever hundreds or thousands of people follow the steps, if a tiny number it works for, then they become the evidence that it could work for you, too. And if you disagree or question that—well, you just didn’t have enough faith. This is kind of the problem.

In Seth Godin’s new book The Practice, he talks about the idea that an industrial system has trained almost everybody to venture to create uniform products and predictable outcomes. To pass the test, rather than understand the material. To ask, “which category do I fit into,” rather than find that combination of things that make them special and unique.

And this is about creative courage, not following a formula. And it’s terrifying and requires bravery. And bravery was probably the one thing that the guru had when she had to figure out her six-step formula, before it was a formula, and what if the real formula is bravery? So then Seth’s book is so awesome, because he’s talking about the tried-and-true ways of learning to stay in process, the process of creating brave work, wheny you don’t know the outcome, and there is no formula.

The “five simple steps to success” model, that is so much from the industrial model. It’s easier to replicate, easier to sell—but is it necessarily helpful? Are the methods of teaching and helping people that are the easiest to replicate and scale, the same as the ones that are really the most helpful, to help someone find their own brand of success?

We are a mixture of fears, hopes, beauty, talents, wants, needs, mistakes, … so much that we hide for fear it won’t be appreciated; things we don’t want to admit we’re terrible at … other things we could be wonderful at, if only we could be vulneragble enough to share it … And this beauty of who we are, in all the messiness—this just does not get covered by the sort of ultra positive thinking, “fake it till you make it” way of seeing the world.

If Jacob had had some good business coaching, that may have helped him far more than this dreamy, pie-in-the-sky program, around this one person’s skill set, and whatever fluffed-up set of beliefs she had about how if you just fake it till you make it, everything will be wonderful.

Although positive affirmations and positive ideas can be very helpful, here is where they can also become toxic. A smart person would look for both qualities:

  1. Emotional support / inspiration / encouragement / hope
  2. Transferrance of necessary skills / content / information

Economics—the market dynamics—drive people into business models that are easily replicable, without really looking deeply at what’s really working. That’s why Seth Godin, when he founded Akimbo, stood back and really looked: he looked at the lousy success rates he was having with his Udemy class—even though his class was far more successful than most of them!

So he looked at how he could be generous and create something that worked better. I’ve taken one of his Akimbo workshops, and it was very good. Clearly and obviously a different experience than a bunch of online videos!

There’s some kind of harmonious balance between the idea of you being successful, and the idea of your customers being successful. Godin says there is a balance, yes, between the ego that we do satisfy by creating something, and the service that we give to others. Between wanting to be seen, doing it for our own sake; and serving others, and making our impact.

But a lot of these live on the beach in Bali type programs, they feel way too far into that first half of that equation. Almost never is it about the impact you’re going to have. Yes, that is played lip service to, of course, but 90% of it is about all the money you’ll have, and of course that is supposed to solve all your problems.

It’s too much sugar, if you ask me.

Create your online course, sell it over and over, and sit on the beach while the money rolls in. But what if the actual value isn’t that good? What if it’s not really helping people as much as you could?

Seth Godin: There is no formula for creative, courageous work. We are all indoctrinated to want to pass the test, etc., from industrial society. So it’s terrifying. I’m still terrified, sometimes. But part of the practice, that Seth is talking about, is how to the work anyway, even when you are terrified.

This got me thinking about a different metaphor: the flat dwellers and the cliff dwellers. Let’s say the industrial society is a culture of Flat Dwellers. Things are a little boring there, but more regular, and easier laid out. You know your role, and how you fit into things, right? What to do when, and so on.

Then, this Cliff Dweller culture, they raise their children to learn how to create flying apparatus, to fly down among the cliffs. From the earliest days, they teach their kids how to fly. But each person is expected to make their own flying apparatus. There are some broad common threads, about aerodynamics, etc. But the art of their culture includes expanding the artistry, the craft, and the means of learning to fly.

So in the Cliff Dweller culture, it’s obvious that they don’t just send their kids off with their early experiments, to jump off the tallest cliffs—of course not! They start them out with a drop of a couple of feet, and move up from there. They teach them different basic ideas around aeronautics, and let them play around and experiment. By the time they are old enough to take to the big cliffs, they are ready!

But the way that the Cliff Dweller culture gets translated into Flat Dweller culture, is as this one, two, three set of steps. Because this is how the Flat Dwellers think about everything—tried-and-true processes. The real artistry of each Cliff Dweller’s flying apparatus—that is not something they would not understand.

They help each other in running experiments. And, they know that their brother or sister will never run the same experiment—because they have a different thing to try. But there are patterns and processes, common to all. And that is what they know how to support someone in, in their culture.

The Cliff Dweller people learn to be comfortable with the unknown.

So, the Flat Dweller society hears of this mysterious tribe in the hills, and some of the more adventurous among them, become very interested! They bring back stories. Sometimes, the stories are distorted by their culture. “Can they really fly?” People will say. “Yes, they use their minds!” Perhaps some enterprising Flat Dwellers turn these ideas into a thing they will teach people. “For 100 Stones, I will teach you the steps to fly, just like the flat dwellers.” And their business flourishes, with tales of being able to fly like the cliff people.

Kathryn paints pastels, and her family has an artistic background. In a pastel class painting a single vase of flowers, with 15 students, there are 15 different interpretations. Sometimes the craft is greater for one or another; but what each one found interesting, is so different. When she’s been in a class with people over years, their skill may build up, but their unique perspective gets more refined. But it is still their perspective. And as their skill increases, they become more able to craft that to say what they want to say. You can start to really see what they’re seeing there, in that vase of flowers.

People have been given formula after formula for how to make a bazillion dollars, to “build their lists”, corner the market, and so on. But as we said above, the step-by-step processes they do end up being pretty superficial, and unimportant. A waste of time, often. They encourage the practicioner to abuste their audience. A classic example is the email popup that appears appears immediately when you open a brand new website. “Hello!” It seems to shout. “And thank you for visiting GardenVegetables.com, for this recipe for zucchini. I would hate for you to miss any of the endless vegetable recipes and other tips, so please sign up for our newsletter, so I can email you week after week after week. That’s good, right?”

The longest-lasting of these is about “building your list, building your list”. This was a really big deal back in 2010, and it made a lot of sense back then. Now it may also make sense—but it feels to me like they are still trying to sell it as if it’s still 2010—as if people are still interested in getting random emails from someone. When quite obviously, they are not interested in this at all.

This abuse is given a permissions structure by the internet gurus, who seem to act as if it’s still 2005, and people are not sick to death of getting random emails. But they are sick to death of getting random emails.

Every single client I’ve worked with is so sick of email, because they get a thousand emails a day that they weren’t really asking for. Maybe they said “okay, I’ll throw my email in this box, because I want to get the free e-book, and check it out for a second.” I’ve done this, and if my desire wasn’t high enough, I wouldn’t even give the e-book enough attention, and then I was on another list. Until I went to the trouble of taking myself off—but that’s hard, and most people don’t even bother to do that. They just build up a resentment towards email, in general.

And the email exchange felt more like a trick. Instead of being the building of a relationship, of saying “I have something that might help you; but I need to know a little bit about you first,” the way we do in person.

It takes a lot of faith, and here’s what looks like a lack of faith to me, and I see it 20 times a day: I come to a website, and I’m starting to get what looks to be a useful bit of information, and and then a form pops up, blocking my vision, and asking me to sign up for their email list. Why on Earth would I want to sign up for their email newsletter at that point?

So I just close the entire website, more often than not now, before I even read the article. Sometimes it’s a juicy article, but I just close the tab anyway, because I refuse to be spammed. And I can tell you, all of the non-Internet marketer people I talk to, are every bit as annoyed as I am.

And in most cases, they are less tolerant, because they don’t see the other side, that it’s a tactic intended to build that person’s business, they just feel angry—genuinely angry about it!

So we have a public who’s generally angry about the way people are trying to use their dumb-ass email newsletters, and an internet guru class who is almost totally ignoring this fact.

Kathryn discussed research around punishment and abuse, and how over time you have to ratchet it up, and ratchet it up. And that is what internet marketers are doing, unless they are using these tools to build a relationship. And build trust, little bit by little bit. But for the most part, they are just taking a formula, blasting it out, and abusing people, so that now they have to do it more and more, and more and more aggressively. And they can hide behind their stats: “well, click rates are going down, so here’s how you compensate for that…”

Well, this completely ignores the emotional context of everyone who doesn’t click or subscribe, etc., and what’s going on for them—as well as, those who even do.

And it takes self-discipline. It takes faith. It takes patience, to say “no, I’m going to wait until this person’s ready to ask me for something.” Your offers should be something that someone is reaching for from desire, not something that you push on someone, and hope they understand.

The alienation from the idea of marketer is so extreme, that we might well call ourselves something else, because people are freaked out by that. If they are already in business, they might have a more favorable vision, but I have seen lots and lots of businesspeople ignore strategies that will get them more business, because they consider it rude, inconsiderate, or annoying. And I can’t blame them. What if you don’t have something to say once a week? What if people would prefer to hear from you once a month? What if people do consider it an imposition? On the one hand, there are so many people who are so sensitive, that they don’t take advantage of opportunities sitting right in front of them, to legitimately help and reach out. On the other hand, you have the abusers.

If I don’t pop that box up, I have to have faith that my article was helpful enough.

Although as a user, I have a problem too, which we might find a solution too. I definitely don’t want to be deluged with dumb articles yet, but I may want to put a little tiny bookmark on you, so I don’t forget about you. I only have two choices, normally: subscribe to your dumb newsletter, or forget about you forever. My other problem is, I can’t remember you,

For myself I use Pocket a lot so that I can bookmark sites, and possibly come back to them from time to time.

We need a trusted system to be able to regulate the amount that we hear from people.

But if there was some type of service… like a Remember Me service. Remember Me would be a company, and it could build up a lot of brand recognition, so that every time you saw a validated Remember Me box, you could have faith that it was not going to spam you, so you could relax. You could have your settings globally such as, “I only want to be reminded once a week,” or once a month.

It could have a cute little logo so that it was completely recognizable.

If you click on a Remember Me, then you’ll et a reminder that this website exists, once every month or so…

And of course, maybe the website could put their very best stuff into the reminder. And perhaps they are not even allowed to put offers into the Remember Me notification.

But this is Level One. There’s maybe five levels of trust-building before I probably want your newsletter.

But what it’s doing is saying sort of, “yeah. I’d love to hear about you, just a little bit… from time to time… maybe… if you don’t bug me…” “And that’s about as much attention as I have for you, but sure—I am happy to give you that much.”

And when I get my Remember Me, I can easily, at the push of a button, remove any feed from it! No “are you sure you want to delete this one” bullshit—nope—it’s just gone, if you don’t want it. And people would really build up trust in this thing.

Internet marketers from the old school will hate this. They will scream loudly that this will reduce their conversion rates. But I think it will build up trust among people who really care. I think those businesses who are shy and sensitive about bugging people, could really get behind this. Everything—and I mean everything—about this company, would have to have a high integrity.

Isn’t this the same way as when you meet someone new, and you don’t instantly connect, but you like them fine? And it’s a nice thing when you meet them again; and over a period of months or years, you might become friends with a few of those people. And never is any one of those people overwhelming you with annoying “offers”.

Remember Me might have detectors that see if you are using annoying popups. And a whole variety of things… The more I think about it, could be more like a Better Business Bureau type of things, where you pay a certain annual fee (like $200), and you actually have humans vetting the process. Kind of like the way Angie’s List used to be, though it’s obviously free

Maybe you have to earn it to put it on your site

Tying together all these threads: lots of people don’t seem to have trust in they have trust in themselves in the regular world, but they don’t trust themselves in the internet world. So fo example we did a survey of the websites for local bookshops. And we found over and over again, that they will have a wonderful physical environment, very inviting and warm etc. And we felt that the experience of the local bookshop is about so much more than just the physical acquisition of a book, which of course you can do over Amazon. But, when we saw the websites, over and over they were sterile. They were all about buying the books, b ut had none of the warm feel of the bookshop experience. And we surmised that one of the main reasons was that they were trying to follow the advise of a web designer, or a WordPress theme, or what have you, and felt “because this is a different medium,” they will not know how to translate it into that medium.

And they see that other websites have a popup that goes in your face to sign up for their newsletter, so I had better do that too, because this is obviously the modern thing. And so, these kinds of things get propagated. The desire for a formula gets people into this. The fact that you can buy a popup plugin, with lots and lots of options to push things in people’s faces, gives you the feeling that this must be a thing to do.

And once again, the echo chamber of internet guru-hood keeps people out of touch with their customers, and their own instincts.

Kathryn asks her students, “what would you do if this was an in-person interaction?” And time after time, her students have the aha. It’s like, “oh you mean I have permission to use my basic human instincts and social training here, and not just follow the formula for these magical gurus, who have somehow anointed themselves as the masters?”

So we are sending the message that we really want people to trust themselves.

As Seth Godin says, it’s about trusting yourself. Not giving over your power to the internet marketing gurus, or any gurus, really. It’s not about this one quick magical fix, but about an accretion of good, solid hard work. And when you end up selling a magical fix, you end up selling sweet, sweet sugar that is going to exhaust people and make the culture more addicted, and not more healthy.

People fantasize about the wonderful lifestyle, living on the beach and doing yoga every morning for two hours; opening their laptop for about 30 minuets, and it’s too much fantasy mixed in with the good work.

The glamor level is painted so high.

First and foremost, I want to build things that are helpful to people.

We don’t need any more plastic things that are semi-helpful.

Seth Godin developed his whole online education platform based on this idea. He saw that even though the rates of completion for us Udemy freelancer course were some of the highest they had ever recorded, they were still abysmally low. He was asking the right question. He wants to genuinely know, what is really working? And how can we make it better?

Seldom is an easy, six-step formula, asking the question, “how can we make it better?”. Nope, its: just follow these easy six steps, and your life will transform. But since there’s so much of this duplication, and so little bold innovating, then you get these patterns of exhausting and unnecessary repetition.

That watching videos online, with no community, and no accountability, was a little bit pointless, frankly.

I took one of his Akimbo workshops, and it was absolutely terrific! It is actually kind of impossible to compare it to watching a bunch of videos.

And now he’s doing well, and I’m sure he’s making good money on it. Actually, the prices are quite generous for what you get out of it. Of course he could charge more, and milk his fame for a quick payoff, and then he would exhaust his audience. But the reason he has built this audience is because he didn’t do this, of course.

Often you might see your friends promote something—and it doesn’t feel helpful or generous. Did you ask to be on their mailing list? Why did they assume you wanted to be marketed to, sold to? This is how people are told to do it.

Like they haven’t fully let it drop in to who they are.

I think it’s very interesting how we can scale what we’re doing, and creating a viable business. But what’s more meaningful to me, is creating a viable business, that is also meaningful and helpful for people.

—And of course, our business is about helping other people to do that.

You only get this one life, and we want to give the best of what we have. So formulas are interesting, but they will never replace being a human being, and we never want to get lost in them.

“You only get this life. And you can never buy more time.”

With Essential 3, we are trying to ground all these techniques and methods into the reality of people’s lives. Into what satisfaction even means.

The guru stuff talks so much about what you will get, and so little (really) about the impact you wanna make. Why? It pumps up the benefits to you, not the change you want to make in the world. And our vision is about a mutual success.

You’re going to be able to sit on the beach in Bali, and work an hour a day. And the problem here isn’t that there’s anything wrong with that per se, but that the over-emphasis on this leads us into the territory of selfishness, self-centeredness. And the idea of robotically following a path that promises some magical success fantasy, instead of crafting a meaningful, unique relationship with people, that is really you.

And you could just as easily inspire people with all the wonderful change they are going to make—that is, if you want to attract people who care about the world, and things other than just themselves.

And what inspires us at Essential 3, is how to help people have the impact they want to have—on their customers, on their world. On their employees, their community. And sure, on themselves as well, but it’s a holistic approach, that doesn’t see these things as separate, or at the expense of one another: instead, it envisions them as synergistic. We believe that deep satisfaction is not just about being on the beach, and not working. That is a palliative, for a world that we feel doesn’t understand us. Sure, if we are burnt out by the industrial treadmill, a little of that could be very therapeutic. And then… we want to go back to work; we just want our work to be meaningful.

We envision business as a set of success relationships. Everyone is winning and playing a part in this system, and raising each other up. Sure, some play the role of owner, or staff, or customer, or supplier… but the whole idea is that it’s a shared, mutual system.

With industrial agriculture, you can pump the soil full of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer, and “goose it up,” to produce more. But in the long run, it is exhausting the soil. Whereas in let’s say, the no-till movement, you don’t even till the soil, because it lets so many healthy, symbiotic systems of microorganisms grow in a harmonious relationship to the root systems, for example. And they’ve shown how these microorganisms that hang out around the roots, while of course benefiting somehow, are also converting certain soil nutrients, so that the roots are able to absorb more nutrients from that soil; it makes them more bioavailable.

So once again, when you choose to look at it as a harmonious system, and treat it as a harmonious system, your entire worldview changes!

You’ll have sustainable, long-term, and yes—much greater growth.

In the case of no-till farming, it is rooted in a deep sense of understanding the soil. In our case, the caring of and for people requires us to slow down a little bit. Not just “Grow! Grow! Grow!”, but relaxing into a more of a flow.

The Six-Step Formula is the nitrogen fertilizer for your business. Well, it wants to be. But I’m not sure if it’s working anymore…

It does not reflect this wisdom.