Paul Jarvis

Self help is giving yourself permission to proceed

I’ve worked for myself for 20 years now, which really just makes me feel old instead of accomplished. I’ve failed with at least as many ideas as I’ve succeeded with. Even now, even with my experience, I’ve started things that I’ve either given up or watched decline even though I wish they hadn’t.

People nevertheless consider me a thought leader (ew, that term really does feel awful) or at least just ask for my advice on the regular about starting and running a business. Some of them even pay for what I know about specifics of business by buying my courses and books. This is great, it’s appreciated, and even feeds my ego (note: I keep thinking it’ll get full, but nope).

People want answers and advice from others. They want to know the insider information, the secret hacks, the one thing that successful entrepreneurs know that everyone else doesn’t.

If running a business or being an entrepreneur had a replicable blueprint, everyone would just follow that (and the woman who wrote it would be so rich she’d be laughing at Bezos and Musk because her rocket would already have been to Mars and back). My own writing and knowledge exists to help you find ways to think about the problems only you can solve and questions to ask yourself to figure out how to proceed.

Yet, we end up looking to others for these blueprints. It’s endlessly interesting to me that the same sort of people who want to work for themselves because they’re tired of gatekeepers are the same sort of people who needlessly put gatekeepers in front of their work. It’s like learning you don’t need a record label to publish your music on iTunes, and then making sure you ask the top artists in your genre what they think of your tunes before you share them with the world. Or knowing that you can publish an online course or book whenever you want, for almost zero dollars, but instead feeling the need to talk to eight course makers who have six or seven figure courses to find out what software they use for their courses (hint: no one buys software because of the platform or software it uses). Asking for help or guidance isn’t wrong, it’s just not always required to proceed.

We’ve traded gatekeepers for gurus, and continue to seek permission and guidance to do what we want to do with our work.

I’m honestly not sure if I’m broken or just wired differently to want to do things in my own way, not bother with guidance or permission, and just believe that I’ll figure out what works in my business and what doesn’t… later.

Instead of looking to others for answers and guidance with our work, maybe we should just consider this:

Did we create something that other people want to buy from us?

And then:

Do those same people want to keep buying or can we find new people to also buy from us?

That’s the crux of business, summed up in two lines, freely available without a personal consultation. And, I think we can answer those questions ourselves, not through Twitter polls or buying conversations with experts, but through our own experience and then hindsight. We get the answers by making things, seeing what works or what doesn’t, and adjusting. Things fail because they didn’t get enough attention or traction or profit. Not because the right people were first consulted or because we made sure we invented a gatekeeper to give us permission to proceed, but because we didn’t make something good enough for others to pay for. And when things fail, it’s not us who failed, it’s the thing we made (a very important distinction).

We don’t know what will succeed until it’s working. I personally don’t know what will succeed for you until it’s working. I also don’t know how you define “success” because it’s a loose and broad term, with a deeply personal answer for everyone.

I do want to help people though. I like helping because it makes me feel good when others around me do well, which feeds my should-be-full-but-isn’t ego. I want the people I know and talk to to do well, be happy, and achieve more than I have. I want this badly for people who ask for my advice. But I also know that nothing I say or share is going to be the one thing they need to do well.

A lot of advice-asking is really just permission-asking. And you don’t need myself or anyone else to give you permission for most things you want to do with your business. You have it already. You had it from the start. You’ll have it still, for as long as you want to give it yourself.

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