Some just want the good stuff. The income, the freedom that comes from calling your own shots, or just feeling like kind of a big deal.
And of course, these are all perfectly good things to want from your business.
The second kind? They get into it. They love finding out about new marketing techniques, they relentlessly optimize their sales processes, they’re constantly looking for improvement — because it’s fun.
And here’s what most people don’t tell you:
Both of these folks can be successful
You don’t have to love marketing and business to build something that works. You can do what’s necessary, observe carefully, and get a perfectly good result.
(It works the same in most areas of life. You can train your dog to be perfectly well-behaved without learning to love the training process.)
You don’t have to be a business or marketing geek to run a successful business, particularly something small.
It makes life more fun if you do love it, but it’s not a requirement.
This matters because the idea that “you have to love it or it won’t work” can keep you from moving forward.
Why it’s helpful to love it
Having said all that … if you could cultivate excitement for business and marketing, it would come in handy. Here’s why:
- You’ll bring more creativity to the process
- You’ll bring a more attractive emotional energy to your marketing messages
- You’ll be less likely to quit when things get uncomfortable
- You’ll be more likely to embrace challenge and growth
If you don’t enjoy the process, it’s easy to fall into what my trainer friend Susan calls “Don’t wanna don’t hafta.” And that’s where our forward progress can grind to a halt.
What’s the best way to spark some warm and friendly feelings toward this whole process?
Make it into a game
If there’s something about marketing or building a business that doesn’t feel particularly fun for you, and you can’t readily outsource it (at least for now), try making it into a game.
For example, let’s say you hate writing blog posts. (If you love writing blog posts and hate generating invoices or following up with potential clients, just adapt the advice to the steps for that task.)
Keep a calendar, and every time you publish a blog post, mark it with something obnoxiously big and bright. Maybe every day you get some writing done, you put a little sparkly sticker. Every day you get a post published, you write WINNING in giant neon purple letters.
Make it something you can look back over the month and notice. I find it useful to either use a physical calendar, or just print out a paper calendar month and stick it to the wall over my work space.
Sound like the sticker charts we use to get really little kids to implement important habits? Yep, same concept.
As the month goes by, notice how many WINNING days you have. Pretend you’re in kindergarten again. Give yourself those gold stars and smiley faces. With glitter. And maybe some rainbows.
Or maybe you’re more into monster trucks. Or zombies. Whatever gives you that little warm, happy feeling.
That calendar with our WINS marked is showing us our score for the month. It’s fun to rack up points.
But it’s also a good idea to reward a good score with some prizes.
Positive reinforcement relies on rewarding the behavior you want to see, and ignoring behavior you don’t.
So decide on some little treat that’s not an everyday occurrence. Maybe it’s a gooey, syrupy drink at Starbuck’s. Or sitting down with a silly magazine and reading it cover to cover.
You know what you find rewarding. Just like puppies, people are all different. Some like freeze dried liver, some like spa days. Learn your own rewards.
- When you work on a blog post, give yourself a mini reward.
- When you publish a blog post, give yourself a bigger reward.
- When you publish a blog post every week for a month, give yourself some kind of jackpot.
Decide on your treat structure, determine the behaviors you want to establish now (they’ll evolve over time), then lavish praise and love on yourself when you meet the criteria.
if when you blow it?
In the positive reinforcement model, we “extinguish” behavior we don’t want by failing to reward it. No caramel pumpkin spice mochaccino with extra whip until we get the blog post published.
But it’s also important to set the environment up for success.
To use a bit of a rude example, my puppy gets fabulous treats when she uses the bathroom outside. But that doesn’t mean I set her up for failure by letting her hang out on the carpet without supervision.
Rewards by themselves often aren’t enough to get those blog posts written, particularly if you really don’t enjoy the process yet. You also need to tighten up your environment.
- Put the behavior (writing the post) on a schedule in your calendar, and protect that time block.
- Go for shorter blocks of time at first, so you don’t get overwhelmed or bummed out. 20 minutes makes a good starting place. If that’s too hard, make it 10 minutes at first.
- Overly long blocks tend to allow for procrastination wiggle room. “I have two hours blocked out, so I can blow the first hour and 15 minutes.” Again, keep the blocks short at first and grow them only when the shorter block is easy.
- Use a little creative ritual to get yourself jump started. For example, make yourself a particular kind of tea that you always drink when you write. (Mine is Celestial Seasoning’s Bengal Spice.)
- Eliminate distractions as much as possible. Turn off email notifications, block Facebook and Twitter.
- Make a rule for yourself: once you’re sitting at your computer for a block, if you’re not writing, you’re just staring into space. Make it boring not to get the post written.
- Break it down to small steps. Get blog post written is probably too big. Use a systematic process (try this one) instead, and move through the steps in order.
- Slow progress is a zillion times better than no progress. All tiny steps get rewarded.
- Take care of your brain with things like regular walks. Walking is magical for creative productivity.
- If nothing’s happening and you’ve taken a walk, try a better treat. Make your rewards really enticing.
Working with “Donwanna”
“Don’t wanna, don’t hafta” is one of the biggest obstacles that keeps us stuck in a place we don’t like. We could visualize it as a crafty villainness named “Donwanna,” who thwarts our superhero efforts every chance she gets.
But be careful about giving Donwanna too much power. It’s easy to endlessly fetishize all the reasons we procrastinate, to buy into some kind of complicated story about how we “always” self-sabotage, and to spend more energy psychoanalyzing Donwanna than we do on making forward progress.
If you haven’t seen successful before in defeating Donwanna, change your approach. Positive approaches tend to be more useful in my experience — if you get too punitive with yourself, that just gives Donwanna more energy.
Similarly, kicking yourself around because you’re wrestling with Donwanna today (or this month) doesn’t really get you anywhere. It just creates more negativity — which is Donwanna’s favorite snack.
It’s also wildly unhelpful to allow someone else to verbally shit on you because you don’t meet their standards for productivity. Play your own game and keep your own score. Don’t reward jerkwads with your attention, they don’t deserve it.
More to read!
This was the first in the new series on “How to Treat Your Business Like a Puppy Dog,” about using positive reinforcement ideas and techniques to make yourself more (happily) successful.
If you want the full series, plus a mini-course on cultivating the habits that create emotional and financial freedom, just drop your details into the “Blog Updates and Mini-Course” section below.
And if you liked this post, here’s another one that might resonate: