Note from Caleb: This is a guest post from Danny Iny at Firepole Marketing. Danny is a star student from Traffic School, and he has been a regular contributor to Think Traffic over the past few months.
No, I’m not ragging on Pat or Corbett – I’m a big fan of both.
But as friendly, generous and inspiring as they are, they also present a bit of a problem. Not on purpose, but they do.
You see, they’re both big on public accountability.
And that creates a problem…
Why Progress Reporting is a Good Idea
First of all, credit where credit is due: progress reporting and public accountability are both great ideas.
As Corbett has pointed out on numerous occasions, the people who consistently track and report their results tend to get much better results, for a bunch of reasons:
- We all tend to feel a lot worse about not doing our work when we know that other people are watching.
- When we track and report our progress, we have to think about why we’re getting the results that we’re getting, and explain our thinking. This makes us examine assumptions that we otherwise wouldn’t examine, and gives us an opportunity to spot problems before we otherwise would.
- Since we’re doing it publicly, we’re also opening the door for other people to weigh in – both by offering encouragement, which helps a lot, and with critical feedback about what they think we can do better, which can be priceless.
So yes, no question, progress reporting and public accountability are both great. It’s worked for me personally in Traffic School, and I’m really excited to see the results of the Million Dollar Blog Project.
So what’s the problem?
Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc?
You’ve probably heard about the 1953 Yale study about goal setting.
They asked the students of the MBA program’s graduating class whether they had set specific goals for themselves, and whether they had written the goals down. They found that about 20% had specific goals, and 2% had written them down.
Fast-forward a couple of decades, and they checked back to see how the students were doing. It turned out that the 20% of students who had specific goals had made 98% of the money of the entire class, 80% of which was made by the 2% who wrote their goals down.
Now, never mind that the story is apocryphal, and probably never really happened.
My point here is the conclusion that everybody seems to draw from the story, which is that if you want to be rich and successful, you should right your goals down. Makes sense, right?
This is an example of the “post hoc ergo propter hoc” logical fallacy. The words mean “after this, therefor because of this” – in other words, first they wrote down their goals, and second they made lots of money, therefor one must have caused the other.
But that just isn’t true. Just because something happens after something else doesn’t mean that the first thing caused the second thing (thunder comes after lightning, but lightning doesn’t cause thunder). Writing down your goals doesn’t have a magical power, it’s just that the sort of people who are likely to do all the other things that make them successful are also likely to write down their goals.
So why did I bring up the story? What does this have to do with progress reporting, public accountability, Pat Flynn or Corbett Barr?
Another Fallacy: Results Not Typical?
Here’s what it has to do with it: the trouble with Pat Flynn and Corbett Barr is that they’re only two people – but they’re two of just a few people that you follow.
Which means that their two examples grab a pretty large proportion of the examples you are exposed to about how people go about growing a blog and making money in all kinds of different ways.
But they’re just two people, and they probably aren’t very representative of most of their readers.
Not because they’re better, not because they’re smarter, and not because they have magical money- and traffic-making powers.
Just because they’re different:
- They have different strengths, and different weaknesses.
- They have different skills, and different gaps in their knowledge.
- They have different personalities.
- They have different relationships with others.
- They have different backgrounds.
- They have different circumstances.
- And the list goes on…
What does this mean for you?
It means that while Pat and Corbett are both inspiring people to read about, teachers to learn from, and even examples to follow, their experience might not be representative of your results.
Does that mean you can’t learn anything from their examples?
No, of course not – it just means you need to interpret it the right way.
More of a Compass than a Roadmap
Sometimes, you can learn a lot from the specific tactics that people like Corbett and Pat have employed (I know I have – our Semi-Local Business Survey is exactly the B-List Breakthrough that Corbett teaches in his Traffic Toolbox).
But more often, the best lessons that you can learn from the experts are at a higher level; the tactics can be different from industry to industry and blog to blog, but the high-level lessons are usually good across the board. For example:
- They play to their strengths. We all have different strengths, and that’s fine – the key ingredient for success isn’t any particular strength, but rather the consistent emphasis on playing to strengths rather than trying to compensate for weaknesses. To get a sense of your own strengths, a good place to start is Gallup’s Strenthsfinder assessment, which you can take for free if you buy a copy of Strengthsfinder 2.0.
- The listen to their audience. This is huge, and everyone who is successful does it consistently, and well. They do it in posts where they explicitly ask readers to share and weigh in, and they do it when they develop courses and launch projects that their audience is asking for – like the Million Dollar Blog project.
- They create awesome content. This isn’t enough to make your blog a winner, but as Corbett says, it is the price of entry. Successful bloggers don’t just write average post after average post – they consistently try to write epic shit.
- They’re honest with their readers. Not just when they share their earning and traffic reports, but also about their experiences, and about what’s working and what isn’t. They’re up-front about what they’re trying to do, and don’t pretend to know things that they don’t.
These lessons are more of a compass than a roadmap, in that they point the direction in which you should be going, but they don’t tell you about all the specifics that you might encounter along the way.
For that kind of information, you need hard data about what seems to be working across the board, and while there’s a lot of anecdote and hearsay, there isn’t much hard data about what results a large number of real people are seeing, and how long it’s taking them to get there.
We wanted to change all that, so we created the Semi-Local Business Survey. The survey will ask you how much of your income is generated locally, how much is generated remotely, and how you came to be where you are today.
Your answers are completely anonymous, and will be added to the answers of many others, so that we can see what the real trends in the industry are. There’s no offer here, and nothing for sale – we just want to gather the data and share it with the community.
So please, take a few minutes and complete the survey!