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Why You’re Not Successful: Stop Playing by the Rules.

Every day there’s another self-help book, another blog post, another Oprah segment, or another entire business dedicated to helping people be successful — whether that’s online or in life. I can’t tell you the amount of times that I’ve been approached by people asking advice on how I’ve not only built a successful business, but how I’ve also had the experiences and work history that I’ve had in my less than 30 short years on Earth.

You know the answer?

Get over yourself, and stop playing by the effing rules.

Now I’m not saying avoid paying your taxes (my farmer neighbor in my hometown did that, and it ended in a stand-down with the cops and more guns than I had ever seen. Bad idea). But what I am saying?  Stop listening to what everyone else is doing and carve your own path.

The reality is, if you read anyone who’s ever been successful’s memoir, you’ll find two common denominators:

  1. They failed, at some point in their life. Probably a lot.
  2. They didn’t do it the way that everyone else did.

So let’s address the initial “Get Over Yourself” part. I met with a friend recently who had this extravagant plan to release a product in the coming year. In order to launch this product, in his mind, he needed an internet marketing expert like myself. Of course, there was no budget allocated for this expert, and this marketing expert needed to be willing to dedicate their time to make it successful. Otherwise, from his perspective, the project wasn’t worth it. No marketing = no point.

Now that’s the most ridiculous statement I’ve ever heard. But there’s two reasons why the majority of his view would lead to failure, even if he had a marketing expert and the biggest budget in the world:

  1. He was afraid of failing, which meant he personally wasn’t going to go all in unless other people believed in it. Which means he didn’t really believe in it. And if you don’t believe in it, how is anyone else going to believe in it?
  2. Relying on an expert to make something happen that is supposedly your “passion” means that you’re leaving your fate in the hands of others. And we all know how other people are. Furthermore, you’re leaving it in the hands of people that may not actually be experts or may not actually be vested in your project. In the world of social media, success only comes from belief.

Now, to be fair, there’s some truth in his sentiment. You’re right, you need marketing to make something successful. The problem isn’t the what, the problem is the how. The reality is, when it comes to anything in life, particularly online marketing, there are no rules. There’s a framework, and some guidelines that work — but the longer the Internet is around, the more people get tired of being “marketed to.” This is why the music business is failing, and why the film industry is quickly approaching the same fate, and why you constantly need to be re-evaluating your workflow.

The biggest err in his philosophy is the how. He believes the only way to achieve marketing success is to commit to a, b, and c. The reality? You can do it any damn way you please. If you only have a year to make this project successful? Well, then you’d better have a budget and hire the best person in the business. If not, you’d better recognize that there are things you can do, but those things will require you to think outside of the box and learn how to do it yourself.

Which leads me to the biggest lessons I’ve learned about making my own life. Here are my 3 tips on how to be successful:

  1. I don’t do things I’m not passionate about. If I find that I’m not getting client work done in a timely fashion, it’s usually because I could care less and should drop the client. The same is true of businesses. When you’re passionate about something, it’s contagious. This is why salespeople are successful. There’s something about charisma and energy that is attractive about other humans.

    Be passionate about what you’re doing. If you’re not passionate about it and it doesn’t keep you up at night, don’t do it.

  2. Learn all you can about your passion. While I could be like my friend and be content hiring people that are smarter and know more things than I do, that would be ineffective. Instead, I learn about what is important to making my passion successful, and then I have a better marker for judging whether or not the people I hire or engage for help are actually good at what they do. Not having enough time or energy is not an excuse not to be educated about things that you don’t want to do.

    Information sets you free from being taken advantage of and from being limited to your own skill set. It’s called Google. Use it. 

  3. Use expert advice as a guideline, but don’t be afraid to color outside the lines. The reality is, they’re experts for a reason. You know the saying, “those who can’t do, teach?” Well, it’s true for experts. Look, they get PAID money to do what they do. There’s not a chance in hell they’re going to give you all of their secrets, because guess what? They’re out of a job. I certainly don’t give all my secrets away when I’m speaking at an event. So recognize that any advice you’re getting from is probably missing the “chunk” that really makes it work.

    Furthermore, humans are evolving at an alarming rate. We get used to things. We adapt to technology. We adapt to situations. Take a look at most of history’s biggest stars? They were found singing at gas stations, or found a way to sneak their demo by sneakily mislabeling the envelope. Now? They’re found on YouTube. Stop letting Gatekeeper’s be Gatekeeper’s. Be your own Master Key. If you’re passionate enough, you’ll find away through the gate. And if you can’t? You’ll find another gate, and probably a better one.

    Leave the guidance as a guide, and go your own way. Even if it means you have to find creative ways to get things done. 

So there you have it. Here’s to creating our own paths. Now I’m going to go channel my inner Zuckerburg and put on some flip flops and a white t-shirt. 😉


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Tori Kyes is a Los Angeles-based writer/producer and entrepreneur. She specializes in social media, technology, and entertainment. She's also an advocate for social change, a marathon runner, Ph. D student (Media Psychology), gratitude giver, and lover of life.

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