Listen to the audio version. This essay is available as a podcast!
You’ve probably heard it said, “It takes 20 years to be an overnight success.”
But that’s not entirely true.
There is indeed an easy way to achieve success overnight. And it’s selling overnight success!
(Or weight loss. That, too.)
This is the magic pill that coaches who coach coaches on coaching are always yammering on about! (With Tiny Tony nodding approvingly over their shoulder. So creepy.)
If you are someone who wants to make millions with little effort and no innovation, just find a few other someones who want the same thing! Voila! You’ve just had your first six figure launch and you can use those stats to get to seven figures next time.
And the grift goes on.
I don’t know if Grant Cardone’s ads are following you around, too, or if my algorithm is punking me, but I’ve watched that walking, talking cockroach scurry across my screen and gloat about his $63 million dollar private jet so many times I had to go to therapy about it.
The ad I can’t quite manage to disassociate from features him in his flying ween machine, talking about his time on the Undercover Billionaire show.
In his season, Cardone cosplays as my character, Brad Brosakis the Braggy bro, shaves his head, slaps on some hipster glasses, and “starts over” in Pueblo, Colorado with $100 and the goal of making 7 figures in 90 days.
In the ad, Cardone talks about his time on the show as a sales pitch for how anyone can become a millionaire in a few short months, if they just have the determination and the desire to look and act as much like a flaccid dickfunnel as humanly possible.
And he makes his goal — surprise, surprise.
What did he sell in his 90 days of norm core?
He sold overnight success.
I absolutely do not recommend watching the show, unless you want to burn calories from cringing so hard — Cardone is rude, whiny, and as insufferable as you’d expect from an anthropomorphic pickle whose bestselling books include Be Obsessed Or Be Average and If You're Not First, You're Last.
So the TLDR of it all is that he proves my point — you can absolutely become an overnight success if your product is overnight success.
Cardone hits $5.5 million in 90 days by hitching his wagon (it’s actually an old Chevy truck) to the mythology that spending big bucks on marketing is an easy win.
This is the secret sauce behind some of the biggest names of the business coaching industry; they made their easy millions “teaching” people how to…make easy millions! It’s a pyramid scheme that squirts bullshit out of its puckered peak. (With a strict refund policy.)
This fairy tale has a happy ending for its storytellers, but it’s a nightmare for small businesses who fall for it.
And, yet, the industry, as a collective, puts so many potholes in the road to building a sustainable business, that it’s nearly impossible not to fall.
Whether it’s B-School or StoryBrand or Tiny Tony (my nickname for the industry behemoth you know as Tony Robbins) in his wee blazer, the messaging from celebrity coaches is identical.
“Buy my program, take my course, invest in my mastermind and I’ll sell you all my secrets.”
Scroll past all the glossy testimonials about 10xing this and skyrocketing that and you might miss the real secret, buried in fine print at the bottom of the sales page.
Results not typical.
But I’m not writing this to tell you something you already know and probably found out the hard way.
I’m writing to tell you why these programs are so unsuccessful. And why even branding and marketing agencies that sell services similar to mine ultimately set up their clients for failure.
Celebrity business coaching programs aren’t actually coaching people to build businesses; they’re recruiting followers into their flock to reinforce the mythology that made them millionaires.
When people take business courses, they stop learning.
When people hire an agency, they give up their agency.
“The secret” is that believing the gatekeepers of online business have a secret to begin with is what shuts down critical thinking and mass produces more Tiny Tony replicas. Collect ‘em all! There’s Teeny Deany*, Mini Miller**, and Fun-Sized Forleo***.
*Dean Graziosi, known FTC violator and real estate scammer cum Kutcher Catcher
**Donald Miller, whose StoryBrand certification MLM costs a cool $10K with a $5K licensing fee and operates much like a cult — where they charge you for the kool-aid
*Marie Forleo, the booty camp business coach who will sue you faster for a negative review than you’ll ever make your money back. (Yes, she really had a program called “Live in the Moment Booty Camp” before she rebranded it to Time Genius.)
And the secret behind the secret is that, the biggest success stories that come out of these coaching programs, had the secret within them all along. They just paid for a program to remind them of that.
One size fits all fits this false narrative, not you.
If you want to invest in the business and marketing support that will best serve you, you’re going to want to find a tailor, not a big box.
There’s an inordinate amount of talk about “scaling” in this industry, by people peddling solutions that have no business being scaled.
The best business coach or brand strategist is the one who spends their time customizing their coaching to you and you alone, not tweaking their Facebook ads to fit as many people into their funnel as possible.
Your time and resources.
Your unique contribution to your field.
This is the unsexy truth — because building a business ain’t a one night stand. It’s day after day, night after night, of experimentation and trying and failing and then trying something else until you find your own secret sauce.
This process never ends.
Just as you get comfy, culture inevitably shifts — your audience changes, the algorithm changes, you change — and it’s time to start experimenting again.
No one — not a business coach, not a brand strategist, not a marketing company — can pull a rabbit out of a hat for you.
You’ve got to make your own magic.
And here’s the part that no one puts on their sales page:
In my 13 years of experience running a branding and marketing studio for small businesses, my most successful clients were already successful coming in the door.
They hired me to help them better position something they were aready the best at.
This is why I’ve never shared testimonials where I’ve claimed responsibility for helping a client 10x this or skyrocket that.
Because I didn’t — no one can do that but them.
I see this especially in copywriting.
“Thanks to The Copy Killer, I sent one email and had an 11 figure launch!”
But it’s never one email.
The “one email” that doubles someone’s revenue always relies on the attention of an existing audience, hard won brand equity, and trust built over time. (Or, in some cases, the trust built by an affiliate who’s vouching for you.)
It doesn’t matter how talented the copywriter, the brand strategist, or the marketer might be — if you don’t have those things, the only thing you’re 10xing is your unsubscribes.
The worst thing you can do for your business is think that some celeb hosting a hot seat can take a quick glance at your brand and prescribe a magic pill.
The magic pill is you.
If you want to 10x something, 10x your investment in your own commitment to being a lifelong student of your business.
And if you want to hire someone to help you, look for someone whose signature service is scaled to you, not the masses.
When you hire an agency, always choose the company whose process is designed to reinforce your agency as a business owner. You want a highly customized collaborator, not a high volume coach.
This is why I still believe in sales calls — and urge you never to sign up for a high ticket experience that denies you one.
I can’t possibly know if I am the right fit for a business until I talk to its team first. Ideally, multiple times.
The work of branding and marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. I need to know if we’re compatible, the size of your expectations, and most importantly, what state your business is in before I decide to offer you a spot as my client. This policy is about your success, not my bottom line.
We’re in this together, but I can’t run the race for you.
In some cases, I find that a business needs to start training on its own — run a few 5Ks before we start pushing for the 26 miler.
In other cases, a business is ready to run faster, but they need a different approach or I know they’ll get winded.
I’d rather conclude by painting a picture of business as art > business as self-inflicted torture. (No offense if you’re a runner. You’re amazing and I want to be just like you when I grow up — in my next life.)
Finding the right business coach, branding expert, or marketing strategist is like finding a new painting to hang on your wall.
Yeah, you can head to the big box and get the same thing everyone else is getting. Go ahead and live, laugh, love all night long, if that’s what you’re into.
But that art will never delight your soul — or your bank account, if we’re bringing this back to business.
The right fit will delight you and delight in you. Their magic will be seeing your magic — and helping you to make sure the world sees it, too.
At my branding and marketing studio, RKA ink, I have no “ideal client profiles.” I’m always on the lookout for people who delight me, who are magical all on their own, and are under no illusions that I will wave my wand and turn nothing into something.
Quite the opposite, my ideal clients are also on the lookout for someone who sees their special something and is an expert, not at overnight success, but pulling out and platforming their magic so it’s on full, dazzling display for the world to delight in, too.
p.s. Could this be you? I’d love to help you share more of your magic with just the right people. It’s no secret — I’m taking new clients — and I’d love to make art together. If this sounds like exactly what you’re looking for, let’s talk.
If you liked this, read on:
What to exploit when you’re expecting: the guide for influencers ready to monetize every precious moment…Read More...
I get this question a lot: “How do you stop caring about what other people think?” Maybe it’s the wrong question.Read More...
When you bake down an idea to become bite-sized, you’re left with easy-to-swallow strategies, not for solving problems, but living with them.Read More...