Which path are you on?
And which path are your coaches & mentors on?
Path 1. Calculating & Persuasive
I used to follow this path, and I used to teach it to everyone.
Whenever I wanted to share a link on social media, I would always first wonder if there was an affiliate link… so I could get paid if my audience ever bought something.
I would feel like I wasn’t optimizing my time if I shared freely, without knowing what my return could be.
Everything I did had to have an ROI (“return on investment.”)
That’s the definition of being calculating.
In this path, it makes sense to focus on building up skills of persuasion.
We are taught that success in business has to do with knowing “how to sell.” Persuasive copywriting. Headline-writing formulas. Techniques to overcome objections and close sales. Becoming a master of enrollment.
Getting people to do what you want them to do.
The evaluation for every action is “What’s in it for me?”
How can I persuade others to give me what I want?
This is a path I know intimately, from personal experience…
It led to a closing of my heart,
a grasping and anxious mind.
Being calculating and persuasive — this is how many of us are taught we must be, if we want to be “successful.”
What’s worse? It often seems to be true. The good guy seems to finish last. The cunning seem to crush the competition. By being calculating in their relationships, and persuasive to get their way, they “win” in terms of ROI.
Yet, it’s short-term ROI.
Eventually, either they can’t sustain their behavior due to personal health challenges (physical or mental), or the people around them wise up to who they are and stop supporting them.
In the longer-term, they are on the wrong side of history. Future generations will see them as a cautionary tale. Or if you believe in the afterlife (as I do), they will deeply regret their behavior.
This path is exhausting: Always looking out for #1. Always on the defense in relationships.
This is why many people won’t do business without requiring the other party to sign an exhaustive contract.
Most of my business relationships that insisted on a contract, did not work out for the long-term. Yet the ones without contract, oftentimes produced ongoing benefit for everyone involved, because there was a deep level of trust and wanting to serve the whole.
Can we find a better way of doing business?
Path 2. Generous & Organized
We don’t have to be calculating and persuasive to win in business.
Instead, we can champion and aim to embody a more expansive spirit, a bigger heart, into our business and daily work.
Over the past few years I have begun to explore this path…
One example is shifting from giving only teaser information and charging $2,000 for my business trainings, to giving much of it away for free: www.georgekao.com/knowledge
By sharing many of my tools and content freely, I am finding a deeper and more consistent happiness.
I feel really good knowing that not holding back serves others more quickly. And it grows my own learning more rapidly… so I can in turn serve others even better. Benefits grow quickly all around, including to me.
I’m learning to move from a “personal” to a “universal” ROI.
Instead of “personal” productivity, I ask:
“How can I act in a way that is most productive for my audience?”
Some inspiring examples of this path of generosity, from my business heroes, Leo Babauta and Derek Sivers:
How Leo conducts his business:
Why Derek shares everything:
What about persuasiveness? Being proficient at selling is but only one path to worldly success… but it is not necessary.
Instead, when you are consistently generous, you create an audience that cares for you deeply.
Even when you stumble in what you say (and I do, very often, am uneloquent, raw in my communications), even when you are not persuasive, even when your headlines aren’t great, even if your website kind of sucks, your loyal audience will still sense your genuine care. And they will respond with love. They will praise you to others. New kindred spirits will find you.
However, generosity is just one part of this second path. The other important part is being Organized.
Being a good manager of your time, your money, and your knowledge (being able to find info quickly!) — this is essential if you don’t want to burn out in your generosity.
By being organized, you can sustainably keep giving, caring, and loving freely.
A wise structure creates true freedom.
Every one of us can learn to become a bit more organized. Even a small improvement can make a large difference to our days, our weeks, our life.
Remember that you have an amazing, highly adaptable brain (neuroplasticity!)
You can improve in your organizational skills at any age. Truly.
I humbly offer you my best resources on being organized: http://georgekao.com/joyful-productivity
Lastly, this brings me to the importance of intentionally choosing our teachers, mentors, coaches, bloggers, podcasts, the email lists we subscribe to.
Are the marketers & mentors you follow on a path of calculation & persuasion? Are they always trying to get you to buy the next thing? This is what I don’t like about most marketing funnels. It’s always “how can we maximize the dollar amount the customer spends with us?” rather than “how can we remain sustainable and serve the customer as much as possible?” If you want to more of my thoughts on marketing funnels, read here.
Choose carefully which mentors you follow, because your own values will be shaped by them. You won’t even know it. You’ll just gradually come to absorb and mimic their ethics.
Let’s all aim for (and surround ourselves with) the generous & organized path to success. The world will be better for it, and we will experience a deeper meaning and fulfillment.
And we’ll build truer community.
I invite you to comment below and tag a mentor whom you admire for being truly generous & organized.