I have recently discovered two of my biggest pet peeves in the whole wide world. They make me feel like I am taking crazy pills.
After living in Europe for almost 6 years, I’ve spent the last six months or so readjusting to life in the US. My major focus during this time has been co-founding Seeing Beauty, which plunged me head first into the fast and furious world of women’s small business. And while it’s certainly an inspiring place to be, where some of the world’s best movers and shakers dwell, there is also some really crazy lame stuff going on.
When it comes to women in biz, hypocrisy can and does take on many forms. Like a true fashionista, it has an Avant-garde look for every occasion. But no matter how you dress it up, at some point, you realize that the emperor isn’t wearing any clothes. When the core of any message is insincere, eventually the truth comes out.
There are two things in particular that we need to stop doing. Like RIGHT now.
Cut the Carnivorous Concepts
Sometimes ideas eat themselves. My first example of this came from my horrible inability to spell as a child. I would ask how to spell something and be told to look it up in the dictionary. But since I didn’t know how to spell it, how could I know how to find it? The solution in turn became part of the problem, the answer just making the question harder.
I believe this happens across many instances, when we don’t take the opportunity to process things for ourselves. We take someone else’s word for something and then run with it without really thinking it through. In a culture full of reality TV wishes and infomercial dreams we often inadvertently subscribe to the belief that we can have whatever we want and success is easy to achieve. We follow vacuous examples of said success and take people’s word for how things are done – without really considering just how substantial or sustainable their achievement may or may not be. This in turn has produced a multitude of bloggers who blog about blogging and coaches that coach coaches to coach coaches.
A few months back a new client contacted me. She had immigrated to Berlin and wanted to start her own consulting business, so she set up a session with me to talk about how I had done the same thing. She had been attending a business training program that was being taught by a very famous woman. The main slogan on this business training website said, “Get anything you want. It doesn’t take talent or luck to succeed, you just need to decide. I’ll show you how.” The woman running the program had even been on Oprah.
Now, some may call this marketing, I however just call it bullshit. Actually getting to know yourself is absolutely vital for creating a sustainable and fulfilling small business (our whole first Seeing Beauty mini-eCourse is all about this.) My instinct about this was validated in my first Skype meeting with the client, when I began to ask her some standard questions. To me, these things are fundamental. But I could soon tell she found answering them difficult, if not impossible.
Trying to understand what she wanted to build I asked:
- What are you most passionate about and/or skilled at?
- What experience is leading you to want to be a coach?
- What exactly would you like to coach people to do?
In a very short while I realized that this intelligent, sweet, hard working woman was caught up in what I call a ‘carnivorous concept’. Instead of thinking things all the way through, processing her life, future and passions for herself, she was simply regurgitating a ton of inspirational nonsense that someone else had fed to her. She said: “I just want to empower people to live their best lives and reach my full potential by helping others to reach theirs. We all deserve to live our bliss so I want to coach people on how to do this. ”
I took a deep breath and told her that she needed to have something to sell BEFORE she started a business. Without this we had nothing to work with. I told her if she was interested in developing her offering some more to give me a call. It wasn’t the best way to up-sell a potential client, but sometimes (like whenever I am conscious) my morals get the better of me.
Carnivorous concepts may seem well meaning but as they unfold they simply eat the truth. It’s like committing to veganism and then not reading the ingredients on that tofu packet. It’s people. You’re eating PEOPLE!
Axe the Affiliate Armies
That brings me to serious situation in business #2- Affiliate Armies. I know we all need financial stability in life, especially when we’re creating something out there on our own. And just to be clear, I am not 100% against affiliate programs – getting passive income for recommending things you already use and like, sounds like a pretty good deal, right? But let’s be honest, if you know someone’s getting paid to recommend something, doesn’t a part of you wonder just how much they truly love it? It’s like the young beautiful woman who marries the rich older man with the bad heart. It may well be true love, but reasonable judgment also tells you that maybe, just maybe, there might be an ulterior motive.
Women seem to be the most vulnerable where affiliate marketing is concerned. Our society blatantly teaches us to compete against each other. As a result we are somewhat primed for this kind of co-dependant nonsense. Because we desire it so much, when we see even a glimmer of comradely, we are drawn to it like a moth to the flame. Everyone wants to ‘belong’ but at what cost? I’ve personally been recruited for countless variations of pyramid schemes. From selling knives, to cosmetics to vacation homes. I have been asked to join women’s power circles that sounded downright lucrative, but at the end of the day, and perhaps this is the perfect time to ask, what is the price of your integrity?
“You’ll get $5000 back for a $1000 investment in just 6 weeks + it’s all about sisterhood and being in charge of your own 6-figure bliss-ness.”
What is the price of your word? Should building an empire happen even when genuine relationships are sacrificed as a result? In my experience, good things will sell themselves. To make something good, it takes work and a passionate commitment to that endeavor. If you have to pay someone to recommend your stuff to others, how is it possible for everyone to feel good about this?
Authenticity is hard. We should strive to practice it anyway. If we spend the time to do our own personal work, taking in information and passing it through our own sense of morals and logic and experience, we can make solid decisions that are not only lucrative but can allow us to sleep at night. It’s hard not to get lost out there in all the non-sense. But charting your own creative business life doesn’t have to be a soul-sucking endeavor. Passionate principled artists can succeed in the world, we just have to say no to business cannibalism in all it’s forms.