Do You Even Care?

It’s late at night. Or maybe very early in the morning. The house is quiet. So is the world outside.

Everything is dark. The only light is from your flickering computer screen. It has become the entire focus of your universe, for the moment. That’s the way it has been for a while now, as you work to set up your online business.

Eyes burning from the strain, back aching from long hours hunched over your machine, you lean back, and turn to peer outside the window.

You think back to how this all began. What drove you to try this “Internet marketing” stuff in the first place?

The answer is as clear as it always was.

Freedom.

To break the rules.

Rules that an uncaring workplace or boss, impersonal society or government, or the even more powerful influence of tradition and convention imposed on you. Crushing and bending and stuffing you into a mold of “conforming with the usual”.

But you didn’t care to spend your days living in a cubicle, taking orders from a fool, or wasting life doing things that didn’t matter. You wanted something better.

For yourself.

And for the people you cared about. For your kids, your partner or your spouse. For your family and friends.

And so you set out to get it.

I am used to working 14 hours a day as heart surgeon. As an Internet infopreneur, I still do – with this proviso… I can quit at a moment’s notice and follow my heart, whenever I want to. When my professional peers and colleagues cannot dream of doing it.

That’s the freedom to choose.

In May, my hometown was sweltering hot. Temperatures touched 40C and higher, with humidity in excess of 70%. Little children recovering from heart surgery can’t find worse weather to recuperate in. So I chose to hold off on operating for a few weeks.

Our family went on a holiday to a far corner of my country that I had never before visited. We enjoyed mild temperatures, lovely scenery and learned about a culture and people who are also Indian, but yet so distinct and different in many ways.

I returned refreshed and energized by the trip. All the while, corporate bean-counters had kept pushing highly paid surgeons like me to keep on going, operating, earning money for the hospitals… leaving them worn out, frustrated, yearning for the freedom to choose.

Another important reason many choose to build an online business is to restore what was lost in the cold, impersonal world of ‘big business’. Big business is faceless, therefore heartless. Small business is something different.

Or, at least, that’s how it used to be.

There was a sense of community and connecting. You knew your clients as individuals. Often communicated extensively with them. Formed bonds of friendship that went beyond merely selling to them and making a profit.

Your online business was supposed to bring back the atmosphere and feel of a village grocer’s shop, or the small bookstore at the corner – but letting you work from the comfort of home, and reaching out to a global audience.

And by doing that, your Internet home biz was supposed to give you freedom to spend more time with family, friends, hobbies… and therefore be refreshing and relaxing.

But is it?

No? Why not?

I’ll tell you what I think. It’s the result of following ‘big business’ principles. It’s because of setting over-ambitious and often unrealistic goals. It’s about imagining, play-acting and role modeling people you may never have ever really wanted to be, if only you knew what it takes to become like them – or what happens after you do.

Look, maybe you’re that one in thousand who really, seriously, honestly wants to be the next Bill Gates or Sergei Brin or Zuckerberg. Great. If you want to play big businessman, do it right.

Get an MBA. Or hire an MBA. Hire ten of them, while you’re at it. Draw up a great business plan. Build a prototype. Get financed. Learn marketing like Steve Jobs.

Or if you want the perks and fun without the entrepreneurial struggle, join a large corporation. Work your butt off. Fund your pension plan out of your huge paycheck. And retire rich – worn out and stressed out, but rich!

That’s one choice. It comes at a price. Pay it. Gladly. After all, you decided the goal was worthwhile.

“Take what you want, and pay for it” – says an old Spanish proverb.

Or maybe you don’t want THAT. Maybe that’s why you turned to the Web. To try and run a small business.

To enjoy your life better.

Well, you can do it. But you’ve got to start out with the right goals.

Smiles. Relaxing holidays. Less debt. Less stress. Better health.

More comfort. More time. More spending it with people who matter. Going places you want to. Doing stuff you enjoy.

Giving back to the community, the world. Helping others less fortunate than you, and doing it because you want to, and because you can.

And to start moving in that direction, you have to change expectations, reset goals and shift targets. You really do NOT need a million bucks to do it!

Don’t just trust me on this. Work on the numbers yourself, and you’ll see. You’ll even be shocked at how little you need to live the life of your dreams!

In my own infopreneur business, there are months where I make less than $1,000. And they are happy ones, because those are the months I’m doing more than usual fun stuff.

Like creating new info-products. Like exploring new ideas. Like reading great books. Like traveling to interesting places. Like doing a mentoring program.

That doesn’t mean I don’t know how to make more money, or that I haven’t done it. In 2004-2005, I’ve had DAYS when I made a small fortune – and not just once, by fluke, but repeatedly.

(Oh, and that’s NET income, by the way, not typical ‘guru speak’ where you spend $20,000 to make $21,500, leaving you only $1,500 or less in profit!)

I turned my back on that style of working – because I realized something profound. The things I was doing, the way I was acting, the attitude I was adopting… all of them, while making me a lot of money, impacted everything else I wanted for myself and my work.

And that price was one I refused to pay.

Something changes when you forget there’s a human being at the other end of your email or marketing message. And when you remember again, something changes about the way you can craft and send out that marketing message!

Think for a moment about your favorite guru, who sells a course or training program for a couple of thousand bucks, knowing fully well that other comparable ones exist at a fraction of that cost.

He deludes himself into believing that THIS program is ‘different’, and is therefore worth the cost. Without that ‘belief’, it’s hard to make a convincing pitch to sell it. And when that delusion grows stronger, it creates an altered perception of everything in his world.

Do you really think your favorite guru can go back to being a normal, loving, caring human being after this?

After a fair share of their buyers went bankrupt?

Or maxed out their credit cards?

Or are putting their families to terrible strain by shelling out a fortune on that program?

And some (often most) of those hapless victims buyers did it, NOT because they wanted to – but because, by ‘smart’ marketing tactics, they were made to want it… even when it wasn’t right for them!

Do these ‘gurus’ even care any longer about how and why they got into this in the first place?

Why point to the 1%, or 3%, or even 30% of your clients who succeeded… when most of them did not?!

An interesting footnote. One of my professors in medical school would caution us by saying, “Your patients will recover and survive… with you, without you, and IN SPITE OF you!”

Anyway, that’s one of the reasons why the FTC stepped in with the rule about ‘typical results’ testimonials… to cut down on misleading advertising. But I doubt if it’ll serve the purpose it’s intended to, except to eliminate the instances of blatant lying and misrepresenting facts.

You see, once you set down the path of profit maximization to the exclusion of everything else, you start changing as a PERSON.

Your paradigm shifts. You view the world around you differently. And you make excuses for anything that intervenes in your way of thought.

It’s a DE-HUMANIZING experience.

And often, it creeps up on them. They aren’t even aware of it. I’ve been at (and listened to recordings of) ‘guru masterminds’ where attendees congratulate each other on discovering new, more effective ways of fooling prospects.

Mind control marketing works. It’s powerful. And can be wicked, in the wrong hands.

Unfortunately, the age-old tactics are in too many hands now to be discriminating about their use. Pandora’s box is open. We must live with the changed circumstances – and arm ourselves by learning about the tactics, so we can discount them when they are applied against ourselves.

But I digress. It’s just to make the point that, if (or when) your prospects sense that you are trying these techniques on them, there will be a backlash which leads to the ‘guru bashing’ syndrome that’s so rampant everywhere today.

Do you think that’ll happen if prospects respected and trusted the way they were being marketed to?

There’s another way you’ll change when you embrace and adopt such methods in your blind pursuit of one (limited) form of success.

You build barriers to protect yourself against painful reality.

Busy doctors cultivate such a ‘depersonalizing’ mask. As a safety device. Because that’s the only way they can go on to function peacefully in a stressful situation.

It is incredibly difficult, and challenging, to be able to stand over a child with a heart defect at the operating table, when you know how precious her health is to the people who care.

I have patients who come from families in deep distress. Broken by drink, divorce or depression. Struggling with incomes that won’t keep you in coffee for a week. Facing social, economic and psychological stresses that regular people cannot even imagine.

And knowing this background, getting involved (even superficially) in their lives, is a huge burden when it comes to treating their kids. Knowing the stakes are so high makes surgery all that more difficult, even if I don’t let it show (that’s the difference between professionals and amateurs).

Still, I’ve chosen to let myself feel. It’s risky, but it offers a sense of fulfillment in my work that can’t ever be attained without that involvement.

After those (thankfully rare) occasions when we lose a child to complications after surgery, I feel terrible. Not for a few hours or days, but for weeks, rarely even years.

It hurts badly, as if it were my own child. And that’s why I’m so passionate about wanting to make it happen less often, hopefully never.

It’s why I spend so much time and effort raising funds for my non-profit foundation (and donating part of my business profits to it). And then performing heart surgery for children from these under-privileged families. Families who could never hope to afford the full expense of treatment that’ll save their child’s life.

And this empathy extends to buyers of products that I sell in my business.

Sure, my 6-week mentoring course is worth $2,500, if not more – just for the personal involvement I give my students. But I don’t charge so much for it… because most people won’t do squat with it.

So I’m doing the first session for free. And the next one for around $200, then the next for $500.

But even then, some will not benefit from it. And that makes me feel bad, because I want everyone to get value from every transaction they have from me, regardless of whether money is even a part of it.

It’s the only reason I took away access from almost one-half of the first batch of mentorees – they didn’t follow through and take action on the course material! They won’t derive the most value and advantage from being in the course.

And where most people who sell these services would say: “How is that any concern of yours? It’s their choice to pay money, and their choice not to make use of your training. Why should you care?

The fact of the matter is that…

I care.

And believe you should, too.

About something. A vital, special, abstract entity. The value, reason, purpose that lies at the core…

  • …of why you are in business
  • …of why you do what you do.
  • …of who you are.

It matters. Even more than ever before. Because that feeling is becoming scarce.

In a dog eat dog competitive arena, where ‘success’ is measured by the scorecard (money, sales, profit, subscriber count, etc.) rather than by how well one plays the ‘game’, it is easy to lose focus and drift along a convenient path… even without realizing that it’s taking you perilously close to the edge.

Turning you into another person.

One you may never want to become.

This message is a wake-up call.

Stop. Think. Reflect.

Go back to the beginning. Ask yourself why you set out along this road. Challenge yourself to say if you’re still true to your goals, dreams and hopes.

Ponder over whether you’ve changed in some subtle, significant and critical way, deep down inside… and if that change has made you a different someone you never wanted to be.

If it has, now is the time to change back. Before it gets too late. Before you too start deluding yourself that “It’s ok”.

It never was.

It never will be.

You have a choice – to make your business take you where you want to go, and in the way you want to get there.

Having fun. Adding value. Creating friends. Building your brand. Touching lives. Helping people. Feeling happy.

Yes, you can do it.

If only you care.

Do you?

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Simon Sinek: How great leaders inspire action