An uncomfortable truth about business success

Good morning!

today I have some (possibly) uncomfortable truth about business success for you.

Best illustrated in form of the tale of “The printer and the brave wife”

Once upon a time, there was a mad German email-marketing scientist who took his wife on a holiday to Provence.

There they enjoyed oysters (well, he did, she didn’t care much for what she described as a ‘gulp from a stagnant sea-pool’…), fresh baguette and plenty of local wine, and life was good (even the cat thought so:)


Then, one day, when out for a hike in the dense forest behind their holiday-cottage, they stumbled upon a long abandoned, and since dismantled railway track.

They followed this track through stunning valleys, and over rickety, crumbling bridges until they came across a tunnel.

Now this tunnel was a little bit special in the sense that it has enough of a bend in it that you cannot see the other end.

Meaning: when walking through it, for a while, you are in total and utter darkness because either end of the tunnel is ‘behind the bend’.

The way the locals traverse the tunnel is by picking up a stick, touching the wall with said stick, and then navigating by the sound of the scraping of the stick against the wall…

… which is occasionally interrupted by some delicious silence whenever you walk past what is probably a service entrance in the wall, …

…and for a good 3-5m all you can hear is the gravel under your feet and the thumping of your heart.

Here’s Fiona illustrating good stick-holding technique and bent knees for dealing with possible pot-holes in tunnel:

Now, for some, this is an exhilirating expansion of their comfort zone (after all, all you need to know to assess that it’s ‘safe’ is that

  • others have done it before you, and
  • there is no sweet, rotten smell coming from the tunnel;-)

… for others however, it’s a life-threatening experience that has their brain-stem go straight into DEFCON 1 mode. (my hand still hurts from being in Fiona’s vise-grip …)

Now, the point of all of this is NOT to illustrate that I’m particularly heroic (or stupid;-) … but instead to highlight a VERY IMPORTANT ‘success principle’:

all of us have some ‘hardwired personality type’ … think of it as ‘natural preferences’.

For me for example, freedom is extremely important, including the freedom to figure things out as I go along.

Expanding my comfort zone‘ is truly exhilirating for me.

For Fiona on the other hand, there’s nothing more important than knowing in advance EXACTLY what is going to happen.

Those gaps in the wall where you don’t hear anything for 3-5m … *COULD* there be a massive drop?

If she doesn’t know, in advance, EXACTLY what the step-by-step is, it’s a no-go!

“Feeling safe” is a top priority for Fiona, so ‘expanding her comfort zone’ is the polar opposite of what she wants to do.

Making her comfort zone even more comfortable is her top priority.

Now, this isn’t just some esoteric concept to discuss over a glass of French red, but has real applications in business:

you may remember the story of the family-operated printing company I did some consulting for a few years ago:

The first thing I suggested they do was to do a survey of their existing (and past) customer base to see where they were doing well, and where they needed to improve (and why people had stopped doing business with them).

And guess what!?

Despite me pretty much giving them the exact questions to ask … they never did.

And after procrastinating on doing the survey for a good half year, they finally confessed to me:

“Veit, we just don’t want to find out that people don’t like something about us”.

Whimpy from one perspective.

“Feeling safe” and maintaining that feeling of “safe” at all cost from another perspective.

You see, there’s no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’.

Neither is it ‘good’ or ‘bad’!

Think about the last time you got a course, or product and you thought: “eek, that’s just totally useless”.

It probably was totally useless to YOU, or – more specifically – your way of looking at the world!

If it’s been created by a ‘step-by-step’ person … and leaves no ‘wiggle-room’ to explore your own options, boy, that would suck for a person like me … no freedom, no fun.

On the other hand, give someone like Fiona a ‘high-level strategy’ document with the instructions ‘go figure out the details yourself’, and she’d hate it.

Which brings us to the (possibly) uncomfortable ‘truth’ about success, in the context of ‘Internet Marketing’:

(Internet) Marketing is as much an art as it is a science.


not only is there a lot of ‘wiggle-room’ to try out your own stuff, it’s almost a pre-requisite to want to try new things.

Precise step-by-steps plans hardly ever work.


Because every market is different.

People behave differently in different markets, their purchasing habits are different, what evokes an enthusiastic response in one market may well lead to a flame-war in another.

And the fact that this whole ‘marketing thing’ is so unpredictable, that those unruly prospects and clients don’t (always) do what we’d like them to do …

… well, that makes (Internet) Marketing … shall we say ‘less than ideally suited’ for some, and much better suited for others.

I won’t say ‘bad’ or ‘good’ (or even ‘ideal’), because of course, there are many different ways of approaching Internet Marketing, so some aspects are very well suited to the step-by-step/safety-comes-first crowd …

… and at the same time even if you’re ‘figure-it-out-as-I-go-along/freedom’-oriented … whilst that’s a great match for the overall nature of marketing, it’s of course also a potentially huge obstacle, because (too much) freedom, (almost) always comes with plenty of distractions, too many ideas, too many projects started, not enough finished, and so on.

Which I guess brings us to the most ‘uncomfortable’ of uncomfortable truths:

your biggest chance of success with ‘Internet Marketing’ comes when you treat it like a REAL business.

you know, the kind where you combine the talents of multiple people (oh, how counter-intuitive to work with people who ‘just don’t get it’ … I mean: how can it NOT be exciting to go into a completely dark tunnel???? … or from a more practical perspective: ever had the ‘pleasure’ of explaining your ideas to outsourcers???)

where the person with the ideas and a knack for creativity does exactly that: come up with crazy ideas …

… and where the person who loves systems and is great at not only starting, but also finishing does exactly that: systematize & execute.

But of course, that only works if you’re willing to embark on what’s probably a painful journey:

if you’re a ‘creative’ person, the painful journey of explaining what is so ‘obvious’ to the ‘uncreative’ people who need every single step explained to them before they ‘get it’…

… or the painful journey of patiently extracting all the ‘necessary’ details from the fluffy-brained-person and then creating (and executing) a workable system that actually gets results if you’re a step-by-step person.

But, of course, the first step is figuring out which way you’re ‘wired’, so you can become aware & acknowledge (even celebrate) your own strengths and weaknesses, and accept the fact that – although YOU are obviously ‘normal’ – those other fools think they’re ‘normal’ too.

and then have the courage to embark on that ‘painful journey’ and create something beautiful out of the resulting synergy

your thoughts?




  1. Veit you touched plenty of nerves with this post. I could be the poster child for left brain creative overload! I am in the process of preparing for multiple product launches. ( Every one will be of the “Evergreen” variety by the way. ) I have been doing many, many, training videos in preparation for this. The #1 thing that slows me down is the very process of extracting what is obvious to me and replacing it with something everyone else can get.
    Like your Wife does for you, my family reminds me that not everyone sees things as I do, and thanks to their input I think I am much more aware of this than I was before.
    Great read as always. Your posts and emails always inspire deeper thoughts than practically any marketer who’s list I’m on.
    Thanks for the reminder…


    • lol, your “evergreen” comment isn’t inspired by my recent anti-launch rants then?;-)

      re your #1 thing: what I’ve found is that having someone who is somewhere ‘in the middle’ between ‘overly creative’ and ‘anal’ (lol, my perspective of course), then they can do the translating much better than I ever could.

      They understand what I’m trying to put into words (sometimes/often hard, because the whole picture is there in my mind ‘at once’ and it’s all ‘obvious’), and then they put it into a simple step-by-step that makes sense to people like Fiona.

      and no, you can’t have my ‘translator’ (his name is Matthew)


  2. Matthew Newnham says:

    Translators really enjoy seeing well told stories like this get out into the open… 😉


  1. […] then quickly realized, Fiona – being a dark-tunnel-non-explorer – absolutely NEEDS to have this kind of ‘stuff’ in […]

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