The more time I spend working from home in my online business, the less convinced I am about the age-old mantra that it’s hard work that makes you successful.
That doesn’t mean that hard work isn’t integral.
But I actually think there is something even more important that a lot of people don’t really talk about. Every day I get emails from bloggers who work their fingers to the bone but still aren’t seeing results.
So what is going on?
Here’s a few thoughts.
NOTE: This post contains ranting that may be upsetting to some viewers.
The problem with the word ‘success’
I wanted to start this post by highlighting something that always bothers me with the word success.
It means different things to different people.
And, perhaps more importantly, it’s good to challenge the idea of what success means if you find that your pursuit of it is making you kind of miserable.
For example, if you have a loving family that you never see because you are trying to make $1m a year by working from home then maybe you need to reevaluate what it is to be successful.
It sounds like you’re screwing it up.
For me, success is more about doing something that I love and ensuring that the work I do and the money I make goes towards helping people and doing something useful and beneficial with my life.
Of course I don’t always hit that target but it’s kind of a guidepost I can refer back to each day.
The problem with hard work
Last week I posted a tweet and got a very interesting response from someone who has a very good track record with successful online businesses (he’s also one of my best friends in the world).
I agree with his response wholeheartedly. But first I want to give you some background as to why I wrote my initial Tweet.
There seems to be an attitude, particularly amongst the older generations, that hard work is all you need if you want to be successful in business. I often see it in political commentary – the idea that people who are struggling or poor are there because they don’t work hard enough.
Well, excuse my Australian, but it’s BS.
It’s especially BS when it comes to online business.
As I said in the opener, I regularly get emails from bloggers and business owners who work night and day for years and don’t see the results that some people get in a matter of weeks.
Why is that?
Well, one fundamental thing that I think everyone needs to acknowledge is that not everyone has the same starting point.
For example, it’s ridiculous for someone whose parents paid for them to go to Harvard to think that someone who dropped out of school to care for a sick parent has had the same opportunities they did.
When you want to learn about starting a blog or using online marketing to grow a business it is vital that you acknowledge your own starting point because it will really help you to not feel disillusioned when success doesn’t come right away.
It’s unrealistic to expect ourselves to all perform equally.
I don’t have any children so I naturally can devote more time and money to my business. But I also never worked in a corporate environment so maybe don’t have the experience that other people have.
So what is the secret to online success?
One thing that was mentioned in the Tweet above that I really can’t emphasize enough is the ability to learn.
When you look at all of the people who have had some online success you’ll notice that the common thing they all share is that they have an inherent curiosity for the web.
They are tinkerers.
They see opportunities and figure how to make solutions.
They are dissatisfied with initial results and find better ways to test.
And, yes, they don’t give up. That’s where the hard work comes in.
But, unfortunately, hard work isn’t enough by itself alone. I think it’s much better to think about smart work instead of hard work because hours/weeks/years spent doing the wrong things isn’t going to get results.
So where do you take it from here?
Speaking quite honestly, I really wasn’t the kind of person you would’ve put your money on in a bet about online success.
But, I’ve learned a lot over the years and feel like it’s a nice thing to let people know that you can emulate the successful practices of people who are good at it.
If you’re stuck in a rut then try this:
- Be curious about your readers’ problems
Figuring out the real problem that your readers are having on a day-to-day basic is an extremely simple but very important bit of information to have. It will give you ideas. It will motivate you because you’ll be helping people. Try doing a survey on your blog and seeing where it leads you.
- Be curious about expansion and risk
Don’t stress too much about growth and change – be curious about it. My favorite example of this is good old Copyblogger and how Brian Clark took it from a simple two-column blog to a company that sells hosting, software and memberships to hundreds of thousands of users. Expansion for you, however, might be something as simple as experimenting with a 9,000-word blog post.
- Be curious about your honest interests
Glen from ViperChill is an example I regularly cite. A few years ago he put a hold on his blogging and really dove back into SEO. Why? Because he remembered that it was Google SEO that really got him excited. Since then he’s made a lot of money.
- Be curious about the numbers you see every day
That opt-in form on your homepage that converts at 2.5% – have you ever asked why? Ever challenged yourself to get it to 5%? What about 100,000 visitors in a month? Ever installed some new software that’ll give you deeper insights? Ever paid an expert a tax-deductible $500 for a consultation? Well, why not?
- Be curious about failure
When a successful entrepreneur “fails” at a project she or he will be curious about the causes. They will then, if possible, reset and have another go. Most of us just give up. If you can have a sense of curiosity about your failures you’ll find a lot of new energy, ideas, and you’ll attract the right people to your business.
All of these items are things we can work on and develop over time. As I said, we don’t all have the same starting point which means it’ll take longer for some that others.
But it is possible for most people to get better at it.
Are you successful online?
I’m really curious to hear your thoughts on this one. Do you agree that hard work is important but not the full picture? If you’ve had any success online I’d love to hear about it below so please leave me a comment. Feel like I’m going to learn some things!