Or in my case, “massaging” reality, so I appear more impressive than I actually am.

The first time it happened was at a conference. A friend introduced me and holy Moses I sounded impressive.

I wondered if I should risk sounding like an ass and correcting my friend for amplifying my accomplishments a weeeeeee bit more than reality.

The “sorta-kinda-lie” wasn’t big enough to warrant shaming him in public (plus it made me look good), so I let the conversation to move forward with the slight misconception dangling in the air between us.

The second time it happened, I was on a podcast. The host introduced me claiming things that were decidedly not true and I thought, “Sh*t. Not again.”

The next 100 times it happened, I wondered WTF is going here??

People want to appear impressive to others. It helps you trust us. One way to do that is by associating yourself with impressive people.

Or in my case, “massaging” reality, so I appear more impressive than I actually am.

It’s like those photos you have to take when you get headshots where you’re fake laughing. Not a lie…but also not the truth?

I get the impulse to stretch the truth. The second you realize your thought leaders are no different from you, they lose some credibility. (What’s the saying? “Don’t meet your heroes?”)

You can’t deify a thought leader if you think they’re “normal.”

And we need to deify thought leaders otherwise we have to (dun dun dun) think for ourselves.

We like being told what to think. What to believe. What to do next in our business.

WE WANT ANSWERS DAMMIT!!!

That’s why I cringe every time people make me out to be more impressive than I am. My ego doesn’t mind (he loves it) (my ego is a dude), but the real me gets nervous.

Because it sets me up as someone you think has the answers.

I don’t have the answers.

I could sell you more if I pretended to. But, truth is, I don’t know how you should market your business or who your customer avatar is or why the thing you made isn’t selling. I have opinions, yes. And, sure, I could spend a few months digging into your data and coming up with an explanation that I present to you in a fancy PowerPoint deck you never implement, but let’s save you the $$ and jump to the truth:

You know why the thing isn’t selling. You know why your messaging isn’t working and you know what you need to do to market better.

You have the answers.

UGH OK ok ok, I can feel your eye-roll through the screen. It’s partially warranted. That was a very “meta” way to end that thought.

Except I don’t mean it as a meta-sounding cop-out, you really do have the answers. Maybe you don’t have the answers for the detailed tactical stuff you probably wish I was writing about (like How to build a newsletter that turns readers into buyers, That’s a good one I wrote a few weeks ago. Enjoy.), but you have the answers to the other stuff.

The important stuff. (I’m getting there hold on a second.)

This feels like an appropriate picture to depict “important stuff.” (everyone says I need more pictures…am I doing it right?)

Tactical stuff is great when you’re trying to learn technical details, like the mechanics of a Facebook ad. But not when you’re trying to build something bigger than yourself.

What I mean when I say, “you have the answers” is that you have the answers to the existential questions that are at the root of why you’re really stuck in your business and why you keep encountering the same problems over and over again.

Don’t give me that eye-roll.

You know what I’m talking about.

It’s the uncomfortable stuff. The stuff you don’t want people to know you’re thinking, even though we all are thinking it (if not now…we will be soon):

  • Why am I doing this?
  • What do I really want?”
  • Is it worth it?
  • Am I really cut out for this?
  • How do I make a difference in the world…while being profitable…but also not killing myself working 90 hour weeks?
  • Am I being an idiot? Should I get a real job and be a responsible adult and parent?”

That’s the stuff keeping you up at night. It’s what’s keeping us all up at night.

But instead of listening to yourself (becuase, ehem, you have the answers) you shell out $20k for that coach who promised you clarity and the courses that were *supposed* to teach you marketing and the mastermind in Bali you expected would CHANGE EVERYTHING.

Except it didn’t.

[Maybe you told your social media following it did, but between you and me, we know it didn’t.]

If you’re still lost at where these answers-you-allegedly-already-have are, here is where I suggest you look: They’re in, what I call, “the opposite of a hack.”

We’re all high on hacks lately. Growth hacks, life hacks, marketing hacks, cooking hacks, hacks hacks hacks hacks.

The opposite of a hack is work that is arduous, long (sometimes painful), and not guaranteed to work.

The answers you’re looking for are in there. In the work that comes with no reward, recognition, or accolades. They’re in doing things that don’t work, paying attention to why they didn’t work, (being honest about why they didn’t work) and then doing something different that might also not work.

Before you decide to invest in anything else on your search for answers, ask yourself what you’re really looking for.

Odds are you’re trying to buy certainty. A guarantee. That feeling that “If I just knew THIS THING I’d finally be able to [INSERT AMBITION].”

That’s what the people who try and make me sound more impressive than I am are trying to sell (#nailedit. Looped us back. yiyaaaa).

They want you to believe I know something you don’t.

And I do know a lot of things you don’t. Like how to really irritate my sister while on an airplane or where my husband went to college or how to successfully kill plants every time you buy them even though you didn’t mean to kill them and swear you didn’t know overwatering was a thing.

They’re just not that useful for you.

That’s my sister on the left. She’s way more fun than me.

Odds are, if you’re reading this, you know enough. Certainly more than you’re giving yourself credit.

What you’re not doing is….doing.

Part of my goal here is to break this obsession we have with deifying our thought leaders.

We’re so desperate for certainty that we’re outsourcing the hard — important — work of messing up in exchange for the illusion of certainty.

To be more blunt: stop looking for the answers in the next course, book, lecture, conference, mastermind, coach, or whatever else you’re shoveling money into.

That’s not to say those things aren’t valuable. They are. Or they can be.

It’s like therapy. No therapist is going to “fix” you. You have to do the work. All the therapist can do is ask the right questions and give you tools. It’s up to you to implement them and figure out what works for your life.

Courses/coaches/all-those-things are wonderful if you go in ready to make them your own.

You’ve got to make up your own mind about who is right, who is wrong, what works for your business (what doesn’t), and if you really want the things you are chasing.

And you will probably get it wrong. Which is the point. If you don’t get it wrong, you can’t learn.

To quote the second best redhead of all time, “Take chances, make mistakes, and get messy.” (The first? Me duh).

By buying into the illusion of certainty, you’re robbing yourself of the opportunity to learn to figure it out yourself.

Lots of people know more than you. And they’re going to project an outward image that is impressive, whether it’s true or not.

But it doesn’t matter because they don’t have the answers you’re looking for.

You do.

Margo Aaron runs the first virtual coworking space for solopreneurs with online or virtual businesses. Learn more about her and the space at That Seems Important.

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