Hamlet…”To thine own self be true.”
I sometimes wonder if leadership experts that I admire, like John Maxwell, ever make business missteps? If they do, what can I learn from them? To my surprise at an international speaking event recently, I was asked a similar question. A lady stood up during a question and answer session and said, “I read your books about business principles and they ‘re always framed in the positive but what big mistake have you made in your own business and what have you done to grow from it?” While I am normally quick to answer most questions, I had to take a moment to ponder the question. The latency of my response was not because, I‘ve made so few mistakes but because I have so many. Sometimes my errors were personal in nature others have been professional, but in all cases they’ve had impact on my business.
Curiously enough the example I gave in response to the question relates to the consistency of THIS blog/podcast. For several years, I produced this product religiously on Wednesdays. You could check your calendar against it, if it was Wednesday – a free Joseph Michelli information piece would be available. That’s not to say that the production was always easy; particularly, with international travel, book deadlines, speaking etc but the blog/podcast was a priority.
But something dramatically changed after I went to a conference where other speakers were talking about “not giving information away for free.” Instead these experts encouraged me to start selling subscription memberships to access the types of content I had previously archived on my podcast. I felt these experts must be right, so I thinned out my archive and began exploring the world of “information marketing. In the process, I stopped consistently producing podcast content. Further, I started to explore ways to leverage Twitter by sending direct messages to followers offering free products in order to get people to provide me their contact information through which I could direct market them. Please realize at no time did I start a subscription service nor did I actually send out direct marketing messages, I simply spent more time researching that business and stopped podcasting.
So what are the lessons I learned from all of this? I remember a research study that showed, if you take a child who practices piano because of their intrinsic love of music and you start paying them to practice they shift their motivation from the joy of playing to external monetary compensation. I used to do podcasts and share information for the sheer joy of sharing. At some point, I let myself be convinced that I had the wrong motivation and , as such, my podcast consistency slipped for the prospect of external rewards. While I may someday offer a subscription service, I didn’t pursue that project with the right motivation and instead let my focus shift from doing the right thing – to trying to do the thing that other people told me I should be doing.
In addition to recommitting to you that the consistency of this podcast/blog series will improve, I ask you where have you shifted your focus away from your joy, your talents, and doing the right thing and instead let fear or the voice of authoritative others take you away from your passion? Where have your internal drivers been replaced by externally less rewarding scorecards? What do you need to do to reclaim that which makes you unique, even if others may think there’s a better way? While I still suspect John Maxwell walks on water, I know that at times I am searching for a life preserver and often that preserver involves living the words Shakespeare gave to Hamlet and being true to my passion and talents, what about you?