If you’re reading this blog post, then you may be a blogger or someone who is thinking about starting a business or in a transitional stage in your business and looking for answers. In that case, you’re probably reading the material of many other bloggers that have sold millions of dollars worth of products or have rabid blog fans or a seemingly unreachable number of newsletter subscribers or blog followers.

If you’re like many people I speak with on a weekly basis, you may be depressed and in a panic to figure out how on earth you could ever catch up to so-and-so’s number of mailing list subscribers, or have x number of blog posts per week like [insert name] blogger, or gain the rankings of xyz competitor, or manage to fit into one day all of the social networking and content production and video production that gurus A, B, and C say is required.

Stop. This kind of chaos and pressure is enough to squash your confidence and perhaps destroy your chances of creating your success.

I’m not saying that it’s not smart to strive for this level of visibility in social media — hear me out.

I also work with a lot of extremely successful people that many of you have never heard of. They aren’t on social networks. They aren’t high profile bloggers. They aren’t A-List celebrities. They are smart, savvy, business owners, quietly earning hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars.

Being a social media/blogging icon is not the measure of success for every person or every business. These are just the visible, sexy, popular people — and the way they are achieving their success is not the only path to success.

There is a difference between building a solid, successful business and being a highly visible public figure or salesperson. If building a social presence is your goal, then you can follow a path to get to that A-List status with enough persistence. It’s not impossible. But the danger may be in setting off in that direction blindly when it’s not the direction that you need to go to achieve your true measure of success.

If you are going to compare yourself to others to set your success goals, then be certain that you are comparing yourself to the right people.

I recently listened to an audiobook called “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t” by Jim Collins. I highly recommend this book to anyone building a business. After studying 15 different companies that made the leaps from good to great, he found something very interesting about the people running those companies. The people running the great companies were often quiet (not to be mistaken for timid), not particularly flashy, modest, realists, and strategic thinkers.

My fear is that people look to marketing gurus to learn marketing — but they then use the same tactics that name brand marketers use to promote themselves. They may create the same measurements of success for themselves that they believe name-brand marketers measure themselves against.

My fear is that people will create only a façade — an empty house of cards without any substantial foundation beneath it. I have people come to me that know they want “5 blog posts a week” and “to have a presence on Twitter and Facebook,” but they have given little or no thought at all to the actual messages that will be conveyed through these communication tools. They’ve had designers create the templates and are ready to fill them up because that is what they feel they are “supposed” to do — but are more interested in the fact that there is noise on the communication tools than the message being communicated. Rather, find the substance, and then as it overflows, decide on the right vehicles to share that information.

My fear is that people will try to make up for in marketing and promotion and tactics what is lacking in business substance — because that is all they “see” is the marketing — not what goes on behind the scenes. If you’re the sole business owner or a business owner in a small company, you should be spending a great deal of time working on your business rather than just promoting it. No amount of promotion will make up for a business that is empty or lacking at the core.

My fear is that people will engage in marketing tactics for marketing’s sake and never ask themselves the most important questions:

  • How can I better serve my clients?
  • How can I create the most impact in the lives of those I serve?
  • How can I deepen the benefits that I provide to my target market?
  • What is the most effective way to introduce myself to the people who could benefit from my products and services?

And only then ask…

  • What tools are available to accomplish these goals?

I believe that the process of finding these answers comes from a place deep within yourself. It comes from listening more than talking to those that you serve to truly “hear” the needs that underlay their own challenges, dreams, and goals.

A Challenge: Create an Uncomfortable Span of Silent Time To Look Inside Yourself

Five years ago, I was in a sink or swim situation in my life. There was no time to waste — I needed to figure out exactly how to create a viable business immediately. I put myself on a strict information diet and that, I believe, made all the difference.

What is an information diet?

An information diet is a process of being highly selective about the information that you put into your mind. On an information diet, you want only high quality, high-value information and no junk. Just as junk food can make your body fat and bloated, allowing too much of “just any kind” of information can do the same.

Oftentimes, the messages filling your mind are competing and contradictory; make it difficult to make choices and decisions. Other times, the messages aren’t focused on the critical task(s) you are working on at the movement, taking the essential focus away from those tasks and diluting that focus out to things that won’t help you achieve your goal.

The other critical part of an information diet is silence. Before I went on my information diet, I had to have the TV on in the background as I made dinner or fell asleep. I had to have the radio on in the car. I had to have a steady stream of someone else’s messaging fed into my mind so that I could avoid my own thoughts.

When I turned off the noise and faced long periods of silence, I was confronted with my own thoughts… and it wasn’t always fun.

And in this challenge lies the discovery I hope you’ll make about your business.

I challenge you to make uncomfortably long blocks of time in your life silent. You don’t have to make more time — they are already there. It may be while you’re cooking dinner or falling asleep or driving your kids to school and back.

If you’ve ever had an epiphany in the shower, you might understand the magic that can happen in even a short period of silence. It was during a no-radio drive to pick my kids up from school that I had the epiphany that would change the direction of my business forever and be the lynchpin of my success. Had I instead spent that time comparing myself to my competitors or blindly following the advice of marketers by trying to make up for in promotion what was lacking in substance, that revelation may have never happened.

By “silence” I don’t mean turning off the TV or radio and still reading and talking to people on Twitter. I mean significant periods of time where you aren’t reading or chatting or in any way allowing the influence of others into your mind.

What I hope that you will discover is a gift that no one can give you but yourself — the gift to uncover the right path for your business and your customers. The gift of uncovering what you know to be effective and logical.

There exists a very perceptive, aware, and intelligent authority inside of you that knows exactly what needs to be done next — or at least which questions to ponder further to reach that conclusion. All you need to do is make the time to listen.

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