Entrepreneurship is inherently tough. It’s full of ups and downs. It will tax every little ounce of your mind and body. One day you’re making a killing and planning to buy that Ferrari (or that Villa). The next day, you’re questioning the meaning of life and searching for your resume to send out to recruiters. I’ve been in this game for well over a decade and even with all my experience, knowledge and wisdom, I still have sleepless nights when a product launch doesn’t go as expected.
The last few months have been especially challenging. It all started out with a simple idea: create a new product and sell more for it. That jumpstarted the process of building a new business in an entirely different market with an entirely new business model, very different than the business models that I’m used to. The biggest difference is that, unlike my previous businesses where I sold or promoted digital products or helped others build their online brands, this is an actual physical product that gets manufactured in China and exported worldwide.
Fortunately, one thing that made it easier was joining a private mastermind. Actually, “mastermind” is a fancy word for what is essentially a group of guys who I’ve known for many years. Like myself, they’ve been hustling online for more than a decade and bring massive value and experience in different areas.
There’s the e-commerce guy who’s been selling products online since 2000 and knows what works and what doesn’t. There’s the copyrighting guy who’s an expert at choosing just the right words to emotionally connect with you and get you to buy the product. There’s also the fulfillment guy who knows how to find amazing and trustworthy suppliers for just about any product.
But my favorite guy is probably Mark, the marketing guru. Mark has been building and running marketing campaigns for well over ten years on all kinds of networks for all kinds of products and services, targeting all kinds of people from all over the world. Marketing is his life. There’s nothing else he’d rather do than launch and test campaigns all day long.
Mark seems to care about marketing and only marketing. In our private slack channel, we like to shoot the shit and talk about all kinds of topics such as current events, politics and best countries to visit. Everyone seems to have an opinion, but the only person who doesn’t contribute is Mark. The only time you see his words appear in the chat window is when the topics turn back on things like campaign targeting, split testing and performance.
As someone who’s been marketing for many years, I’m certainly not a rookie. I know how to quickly and efficiently find customers for a product or service. I know how to connect and reach people, the exact people that are desperate to be reached.
Nevertheless, marketing is inherently tough and unpredictable. It’s one of those disciplines where success is contingent on constant testing. It requires you to be comfortable with uncertainty. In a way, it’s the complete opposite of sanity and comfort. Imagine living your life where you’re not sure what tomorrow will bring. That’s marketing in a nutshell. When it comes to marketing new products, the only thing that’s predictable is unpredictability. It’s certainly not for the faint of heart.
Mark has a very different approach. He approaches marketing in a very calm and collected, even a methodical way. He views himself as an expert and marketing as his job. He doesn’t experience emotional rollercoasters when campaigns flop and thousands of dollars go down the drain. He simply follows a system that he has built over the years. And his system just works.
Mark has turned something that I consider as very unpredictable and erratic into something that’s very stable and predictable. As far as I’m concerned, that’s an incredible feat. And the reason he was able to do is that is because he views this particular discipline (marketing) as his job. Marketing is his profession. He’s a professional.
Seeing Mark work his magic allowed me to notice something interesting. Most people approach a new challenge like building a business, marketing or anything else from a very casual perspective. Almost like a hobby. They will “try it.” They will “give it a shot.” And, if it doesn’t work out, that’s not a problem because they have their day job to fall back to. You know, a real job.
The problem with this approach is that it lacks seriousness. Nobody is taking responsibility and putting a stake in the ground and treating it as a profession. Naturally, when things get tough — and they always will — people simply bail and quit. And why shouldn’t they? They never viewed their work as serious anyway. It was only a “hobby” after all.
I’ll talk about a profession I’m intimately familiar with: software development. Unlike marketing, software development is a science. The zeroes and ones that represent the instructions to the computer will always appear in the exact same way that you want. There’s no randomness and no need to test multiple things until you get something that’s working. Learn it once and you know it forever.
In my previous life, I was a software engineer. I worked for all kinds of companies in Silicon Valley, big and small, doing nothing but making computers do amazing things and making lots of people very rich in the process.
The way of the professional
I was a professional software engineer. It wasn’t my hobby. People hired me and I performed work in exchange. The work that I needed to perform needed to be solid or I wouldn’t get paid. It needed to work. Fortunately, I was fairly good at my job. I had no choice; it was my job.
But even something that I view as a very predictable science that can be learned, implemented and put into practice is viewed as something that’s very confusing to many others.
Every year, countless people try to learn programming. They enroll in all kinds of bootcamps, take all kinds of classes and courses but ultimately drop out of this journey more confused than when they started. To them, programming and software development is a dark art, kind of like marketing was to me when I was starting out. They’re not professionals. They’re just hobbyists that are ready to quit at the first sign of trouble.
The biggest difference between professionals and everyone else (e.g., hobbyists and amateurs) is that a professional doesn’t feel fantastic when things are going good and questions the meaning of life when things are shitty. A professional doesn’t experience emotional highs and lows (at least wild swings). They don’t question the meaning of life when shit doesn’t work out. They simply build something and put it out there.
As a professional software engineer, I don’t start thinking of an exit plan as soon as I realize my code has massive bugs and it’s not working the way it should. I don’t give up the moment I realize I need to write a new app using API (application programming interfaces) that I haven’t used before.
As a professional, I always make it work. I’m confident that it will work. There’s simply no other way.
On the other hand, if you’re a hobbyist who’s “dabbling” in a skill in your spare time, you don’t have the luxury of having this mindset. After all, it’s just a hobby that you do because you enjoy it—as long as it doesn’t give you any problems or trouble. And it ceases to be a hobby as soon as things get tough and you’re forced to work a bit harder out of your comfort zone.
When you get a job at a company, they’re hiring you because you’re a professional with varying levels of experience. They’re hiring you because you know what you’re doing and when you’re given a task, you will complete that task in the allotted time. They’re not hiring you because you can sorta, kinda, do that work on a good day if all the stars are aligned.
In fact, any successful entrepreneur is highly skilled in different areas that he or she can easily hold senior positions in a large company. For instance, someone who’s a marketing wiz and making a killing selling eCommerce products can easily be a “head of marketing” at a startup or a bigger company.
A professional will have the same high-quality output whether they’re living in Chiang Mai and building their business from a coffee shop or working in Silicon Valley for a promising startup.
That’s precisely why guys like Mark succeed in an area where so many fail. He succeeds because he views what he’s doing as a job above else. He views it as his profession. He knows that as a marketing guy, he needs to continue to endlessly test different variables. He knows that everything is a numbers game and that he’ll eventually find the audience he’s looking for. And he definitely wouldn’t quit if one or two campaigns ended up failing. That’s all part of his job. This is what he does. There’s no “plan B” for him if he fails.
Professionals view the world and their place in it differently. A professional programmer doesn’t quit when he realizes his code has massive bugs and nothing works. A professional marketer doesn’t quit when his campaigns flop, costing him tons of money. A professional salesman doesn’t quit when he can’t close a few deals with prospective customers. A professional videographer doesn’t quit when he realizes the footage he shot doesn’t fit the script and needs to be reshot again.
To be successful, you must treat whatever you’re doing as a profession. It has to feel like a job. It has to be a job. Because if you treat something that’s so crucial to your success as a mere hobby, then that’s exactly what you’ll get: hobby-like, inconsistent results.
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