You know what posts/articles/books I almost never read? The crazy success stories. Not in personal finance, not in business, not in personal accomplishment. It makes for great headlines and grabs a lot of eyeballs. But I don’t think they are useful and are often actually quite harmful. Here’s why I think we ought to avoid them and what to focus on instead.
3 Reasons to Avoid the Crazy Sucess Stories
1. It praises the person and the outcome, but you often learn nothing about the process.
These posts tend to be all glory and no how-to. Maybe the glory will inspire you to start. But then what? Often I see people jump into big, exciting things hoping for huge results, but with no knowledge/research/preparation. They also want to pay off 50K in debt THIS year. They want to start a side hustle that makes $10k a month. Or travel through 50 countries in a year.
There is a learning curve to everything. Honestly, most “overnight successes” were 8 years in the making. People ask me ALL the time how we took a year off work, you know, because they would love to do that too. Or pay cash for our house. Or travel in 27 countries. Or create passive income.
The very unsexy answer is: We started 15 years ago and made about 1000 choices no one else wanted to make. Every time I get interviewed and give that response, I can feel the disappointment on the other end of the line as the interviewer goes quiet.
That’s not the glamorous answer. But that’s the truth.
If you’ve read a fair amount of our story, you might realize I could spin a few whopper headlines. “Pay cash for your first home, just like we did!” “Travel to 27 countries for less than $10,000!” “Retire at 32 on average incomes!” But you won’t find any of those posts here. Because while the outcome might sparkle, the process is what actually moves us forward.
2. Ok, so you probably can’t have that. Where does that leave you?
Expectations can kill. You might be doing every single thing right. You ARE taking ground. It’s just not as fast as that crazy story you read. That’s OK! If you are doing the foundational work you need to be doing, just keep going.
Maybe you are paying off debt with every spare dime, or starting to invest but it’s going to take a few years.
Maybe you are buying rentals but instead of buying 1 a year, it’s more like 1 every 3 years.
Maybe you are growing a side hustle. It didn’t pull in 100k this year, but you broke even, learned new skills, helped a lot of people and made some good connections.
I see this all the time in blogging. But for every story about someone who grew a list of 10,000 in one year, there are 5 other stories about people who took 3x as long.
The same is true about adopting from foster care. Yes, we have an amazing, lovely, little (or rather large) family. But you know what the first year is: HARD. The first year is ALWAYS hard. Unreasonably hard. For 100 different reasons. And if people sign up thinking it will be easy, and lovely, and fun…they will quite.
If instant success is the only option, we will be disappointed 99% of the time.
3. We need to understand the struggle.
I learn best from the points where others struggled. And I think people teach best from that place. If the whole process was amazingly quick and easy for them, what do they have to teach me? “Just be so awesome that it’s crazy easy for you too?”
Show me how you overcame. Show me how you struggled, in the same way I am struggling, and then tell me what worked and what didn’t. Give me the tools you used, the perspective that made the difference, or the process that smoothed out the tricky parts.
And it might be harmful if….
4. It’s all or nothing.
If you read a constant stream of ultra success stories, there might be a temptation to find the shortcut. Instead of mastering the foundational things you need to be doing, you’ll waste time looking for that magic bullet. Until you give up entirely.
In my mentoring, I talk about the idea of “test and scale”. Starting small, trying little things, learning and growing from that. Then testing again. Over and over until we get where we want to go.
“If I’m not a millionaire by 30, why try?”
“If I can’t pay cash for a house, why even push for 30% down?”
“If my business isn’t making $100,000 the first year, it must be a flop.” Or worst yet, “If I wasn’t crazy successful the first year, it must be me. I’m the failure.”
Let’s do this instead.
Honestly, I love learning from people who have achieved great things. In paying down debt, keeping low expenses, growing their savings rate, investing in passive income sources: it’s all great.
And I love to learn about other types of successful people. Those who raise amazing families, start non-profits, contribute to their communities, grow lifestyle business, lose weight or maintain healthy relationships.
I think all successful people have common traits that we can glean from.
But I know I lean in more, listen closer and take notes when people will share the whole story, not just the glossy highlights. When they can break down the steps. When they can admit to the struggle. I know that story might not go viral. But I get a heck of a lot more out of it.
When are the success stories most useful to you?
In a delightful irony, our story was featured in Glamour this month as a crazy, over the top success story. Although I do appreciate that they tried to make it actionable and useful.
In September I put together 2 paid courses, but I want to offer a FREE mini-course as well! Make sure to sign up for my newsletter to get first access to the new “Test and Scale” mini-course! This is the process that almost all successful people use to achieve big things. It’s what I use in my personal life/work and I am seeing more and more companies switch over to this model to grow their business. It’s as close to a “fail-proof” system as you can get.
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