It’s Not About Doing the Work, It’s About Clearing the Next Obstacle

Imagine this scenario: you’re working at a large, busy bookstore. Every day, people pick up books and put them back. Sort of. They never quite end up in the same place and “alphabetical by author” quickly descends into loosely-managed chaos.

Your task today is re-alphabetizing the Fiction & Literature section. It’s a task that takes several hours on a good day.

You set about the job and find satisfaction in not just arranging the books but in also carefully “flushing” the books (pulling them to flush along the edge of the shelf). Each shelf you complete has a certain beauty to it.

An hour into it, you look back over your shoulder. All the work you’ve just completed has been mangled by customers trying to locate the books they want!

You’re frustrated. You “complete” the job. But is it really done if customers have gone and messed it up already? Your satisfaction has dissolved into frustration.

When I was a manager for Borders Books & Music, managing this task (and many like it) was an important part of my job. It was easy to assign people a section of books and tell them to get to it. What was extremely difficult was managing the discontentment that would grow among every single employee as they realized just how futile their work was.

Once I became a business owner and a coach, I realized just how endemic this problem is. It’s not confined to odd retail jobs; it’s not confined to bookstores and libraries; it’s a universal adult experience.

It's not about doing the work; it's about clearing the next obstacle.

In school, we have certain expectations and benchmarks. You complete your homework, or you don’t. You take the test, or you don’t. You finish the school year, or you don’t. You do what you’re supposed to do and you advance to the next grade. Everything is clear cut, and the consequences of not doing what you’re supposed to be doing are fairly severe.

But in work or our businesses, your actions are rarely tied to clear consequences or benchmarks. You show up, do work that’s assigned to you, and go home. Most of the time, you don’t know how that work is impacting the bottom line or progress towards bigger goals.

Discontentment grows.

You lose faith and focus.

Your growth stagnates.

This is a serious problem.

In all the reader and customer research we’ve done this year (and it’s a lot), this problem has presented itself.

You’ve told us that you don’t know how the work you’re doing today will get you where you want to go.

You’ve told us that, because you lack focus on a particular goal, it makes it difficult for you to decide what’s next.

You’ve told us that there are so many things demanding your attention that you don’t know how to prioritize.

You’ve told us that you understand a lot of things in theory but that you have trouble when it comes to applying things because there’s just so much to do.

Yes, that’s a recipe for frustration. And, it’s also a recipe for the stagnation that leads to throwing in the towel.

The last thing I want for you is to throw in the towel on your business. I want your ideas to find a bigger audience. I want you to up-level your revenue and earning. I want your customers to experience everything you have to offer.

But you’re not going to get there operating the way you have been operating.

So what gives? How did I approach managing expectations and employee satisfaction when faced with endless tasks at a bookstore? How do I approach my own un-ending to-do list and make real progress on my business?

The key is creating benchmarks that allow you to say, “I’m done.”

It sounds simple and it is. But you don’t do it.

You say “I’m going to work on building my course” instead of “I’m going to complete Module 3 by Friday.” You say “I’m going to post more to social media” instead of “I’m going to post 5 times a day to 2 networks, 5 days a week.”

It’s the difference between telling yourself you’re going to train to run some far off race and actually counting the hurdles you clear, one after another.

What’s more: you don’t tie these ineffective action plans to things you really want. Why are you going to complete Module 3 by Friday? Because you’re aiming at a $25k revenue goal on that course that you’re launching in March. Why are you going to post 5 times a day? Because you’re growing your influence by attracting 50% more followers.

The mindset shift you need to make here is that it’s not about doing the work; it’s about overcoming the next obstacle.

You’re the kind of person who wants to see results, know you accomplished something, and raise the bar of excellence. When you’re feeling productive, satisfied, and fulfilled, you’re not just showing up, you’re leaping over hurdles.

What you see in front of you right now is work, not hurdles.

If you want to up your level of satisfaction and intensify your focus, transform your work into hurdles.

The moment you change each task or goal into an obstacle to overcome, you will accomplish more, feel a greater sense of satisfaction, and make measurable progress towards your greater vision.

You’re a problem-solver and a barrier breaker. This is in your wheelhouse.

Here are guidelines for turning your work into hurdles:

1) Start with what you’re working towards overall. Give it a number (dollars, team members, members, etc…). At Quiet Power Strategy™, we call this your Chief Initiative.

2) Then list the projects you’re currently working on to achieve this overall goal. Make sure each is either quantifiable (again: dollars, pitches, subscribers, etc…) or time-bound (has an “by” date).

3) Next, list growth actions for each project. Consider the specific things that need to be done to accomplish each project. None of these actions should begin with “start,” “continue,” “work on,” or any other word that connotes continuation and not completion. If you can’t finish the action in the time given, break it down further.

4) Finally, start tracking your progress. Each and every week, review your Chief Initiative, projects, and growth actions. Take note what of you’ve completed and what stands of action you’ve met. Mark down your progress on the metrics that are important to your goal (subscribers, dollars, members, etc…). Make a plan for the week that takes into account what worked previously and what new things you want to try to create more momentum.

If you follow these 4 steps, I guarantee you’ll make meaningful progress in your business and feel closer to your goals than you ever have before. Your sense of discontentment will start to wain and your sense of fulfillment will grow.

Now, I know most people reading this will not take these actions. Will you?

Life & Business is a Performance: 3 Key Insights from Michael Port

Whether public speaking is a key goal for you, or whether you’d just like to feel more confident every time you make a sales call, presentation is a huge part of being in business. That’s why I was excited to go behind-the-scenes with Michael Port for the Profit. Power. Pursuit. podcast. 

Michael’s recently released his latest book, Steal the Show, and he’s been teaching and talking about presentation and public speaking all over the country.

Tara Gentile interviews Michael Port on public speaking for Profit. Power. Pursuit.

Public speaking is a huge part of my business and life. I love stepping on stage, sharing my ideas, and wowing an audience. It’s also one of my best sources for new clients. So this opportunity to pick Michael’s brain was especially enticing.

Here are 3 key insights I took away from our conversation:

1) People who really care get nervous.

I asked Michael about impostor complex and he replied that people who really care about their ideas, their audiences, and the quality of the work they do get nervous. If you don’t care, you’ll find a way to be completely confident. But, if you are invested in what you’re doing, you’ll always try to make it better and reach deeper.

Always trying to be better and connect more deeply makes you nervous. Don’t be afraid of it, embrace it and work through it. 

2) Good performance is about authentic behavior in a manufactured environment.

You practice public speaking and polish your presentation so that you can be more of yourself in a strange situation. When you know your lines, gestures, and stage positions, you have more flexibility–not less.

Similarly, you don’t practice to become something you’re not. Your practice to prepare for the environment. You’re not becoming a character, you’re becoming more of yourself.

3) Our ideas are only as good as our audience’s ability to consume them.

I had to repeat this one when Michael said it. It’s what I work on with clients all the time. 

If people can’t connect with what you’re sharing, if they can’t integrate the knowledge you’re offering with their own experience, you might as well not be sharing it in the first place!

To get the full story on these insights and so much more, listen to Michael Port’s episode of Profit. Power. Pursuit. Click here to listen on iTunes.

Please subscribe and leave us a review on iTunes! Those simple actions help us reach more people with behind-the-scenes information for creative and idea-driven businesses.

Little Bets Lead to Big Results: Interview with Dorie Clark

A little over a year ago, I noticed my next guest for the Profit. Power. Pursuit. podcast, Dorie Clark, start working a systematic content strategy. Of course, that’s not really something of note in the digital marketing space: anytime someone has something to promote or starts a new venture, you’ll see their name start popping up everywhere.

But Dorie was different. Dorie was writing for sites like Harvard Business Review, not the typical online business or digital marketing blogs. I watched her topics slowly get more focused, the messages get cleaner.

Tara Gentile interviews Dorie Clark on Profit Power Pursuit

I got more and more excited to see someone from the ranks of top business schools use methods I was so familiar with.

It didn’t surprise me at all, then, to find out that Dorie had been placing “little bets,” a term coined by Peter Sims, in order to see what topics would grow her audience, generate the seed of a book, and position her as a thought leader. I talked with Dorie about this plan and how it has resulted in not one but 2 books published with major houses.

Dorie also more than doubled her email list in the last year—of course, I asked her all about that, too.

To find out how Dorie Clark turned little bets into book deals, content strategy into a massive email list, and the odd academic pursuit that she and I both have in common listen to her interview on Profit. Power. Pursuit.

Click here to listen on iTunes. Don’t forget to subscribe and leave us a review!

Don’t Be Cheap: Megan Auman on the Investment Mindset

With all the talk about how cheap it is to start a business today, it seems like that old adage “you have to spend money to make money” has gone the way of the fax machine. And, it’s true that you can put up a website and offer your product or service for next to nothing.

Yet, it’s also true that once you get started you realize the copious amount of ways you could be spending money: a designer, a virtual assistant, a trade show, an advertising account, a coach, etc… Even the little subscriptions add up fast.

Tara Gentile interviews Megan Auman on the investment mindset

I know many creative and idea-driven business owners who decry the expenses associated with running their businesses. But it seems successful business owners figure out how to not only become comfortable spending money to make money but become excited at the prospect of investing in themselves.

Running a Business With an Investment Mindset

Megan Auman, designer, educator, and metalsmith, is one of those successful creative business owners. I’ve always been impressed with Megan’s investment mindset and her ability to quickly make decisions about spending money (and even using debt) in order to further the goals of her business.

Megan has never been attracted to doing things the cheap way. She’d rather get results and get them fast by making investments in quality tools, materials, and opportunities.

When you listen to my interview with Megan Auman, take special note of all of the factors that go into making an investment decision. Spending money is fun—but it has to be smart, too.

Click here to listen on iTunes. Don’t forget to subscribe & leave us a review! Thanks!

The #1 Thing You Should Plan to Change About Your Business

Stop waiting for people to come to you.

That’s the #1 thing you should change.

I didn’t even make you wait for the big pay off. That’s how important this is. I want you to repeat this to yourself over and over again until it sinks in:

Stop waiting for people to come to you.


The problem here is that there is one fundamental misconception about social media and content marketing that all not-quite-really-successful business owners suffer from:

The misconception is that all this content you’re creating and those connections you’re making will make people bang down your door to buy things from you.

Sure, every so often that happens.

But more often, I hear stories of people with big platforms and almost zero revenue. Or, I hear stories from people who are diligently keeping up with every social media platform and still not seeing any returns. Or, I hear stories from bloggers who write and write and write and don’t make sales.

It’s a waiting game. And it’s not very much fun to play.

Business owners that succeed go out and find the right people: the right customers, the right clients, the right influencers, the right partners.

It’s not a mindless hustle. It’s a thoughtful, intentional quest for influence, impact, and income.

Have you been waiting for your turn at success?

Maybe you keep writing blog posts and distributing them to your audience, but you never give your calls to action the main stage treatment they deserve.

Maybe you diligently respond to mentions on social media but never approach the people you’ve connected with to connect them to an offer you’re making.

Maybe you retweet, share, or quote your favorite influencers hoping they’ll notice you but never send them a note and say thanks for what they do.

Today, do 1 of these three things:

1) Send out an email to your audience and ask for the sale. That’s it. Ask them to coach with you, buy from your shop, invest in one of your programs. Tell them how their lives will be different because of it—and then ask.

2) Make a list of 10 people you’ve connected with on social media (or during in-person networking) that you’d like to work with. Write a quick, personal note to them inviting them to work with you.

3) Send an email to an influencer you admire and say thanks. Seek out their email address—but if you can’t find it, don’t let a contact form or general support email stop you. Send it—I would bet money your influencer gets it.

I’ll be writing more about how to plan to change your business to get more of the results you’re looking for next year. In the meantime, check out these posts if you missed them:
Why you have a hard time making action plans & sticking to them
5 resolutions to bring about your next business breakthrough

The Extreme Value of Connection

Srini Rao is a master connector and community builder. I wish I could put my finger on his special brand of relationship-building but I think it’s just who he is. He’s a dreamer, an explorer, and an action-taker and that makes him very attractive to influencers and aspiring creatives alike.


Over 500 interviews ago, Srini created BlogCastFM, a podcast that hosted top bloggers and digital entrepreneurs to explore their stories, process, and strategies for success. He’s since rebranded the podcast to The Unmistakeable Creative and is exploring the world of creative movers and shakers through multimedia.

I’m fascinated by Srini’s story and his community because they demonstrate the extreme value of connection in a corner of the economy that generally prioritizes creators over connectors. And while all of his connection and community building has led him to become a Wall Street Journal bestselling author, a guest on Glenn Beck’s show, and a traditional publishing contract, I believe that the greatest value of his work is the people, ideas, and themes he brings together in unusual combinations.

Srini and I also discussed one of—what I believe is—the most pressing issues of creative entrepreneurship today: the myth of solo entrepreneurship. Srini has been actively growing his team, involving mentors and influencers, and co-creating with him community for years. He recognizes how much more he is able to accomplish because of the brilliant people around him.

Take special heed of this episode if you find yourself a connector in a creator’s world. You have something unique to deliver to your community and Srini Rao’s story should be an inspiration for how to do just that.

Click here to listen in iTunes.

If you’ve been enjoying the podcast, please subscribe & leave us a review. Those simple actions help us reach more people with business truth-telling!

Tara Gentile helps idea people create the income, influence, and impact they crave. She's the creator of Quiet Power Strategy™ which offers hands-on business training and support to idea-driven entrepreneurs. She speaks around the world on marketing, entrepreneurship, and money.

Photo by Casey Cosley

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