Mark’s ways of succeeding in the business world
Embracing your weirdness and sticking to your values.
There’s plenty of so-called “expert advice” out there that says it’s smart to try and fit yourself into some cookie-cutter business model. But Mark is here to tell you that such advice is bullshit.
In fact, he hates advice altogether. That said, he does believe that the best way to be inspiring and attract people to your business is to be true to your unique self, and to be different than what’s already out there. In other words: be weird.
Plenty of people have advised Mark to refrain from swearing around clients — telling him that it’s unprofessional. Yet he swears from time to time, and he’d rather be honest about who he is than be phony in order to please a client who would likely be a bad fit anyway.
The truth is, clients will respond positively when they see that you’re authentic and honest in your desire to help them. If given the choice, people will always choose an authentic and weird human over a flawless and boring bot.
“If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be”
Take yoga instructors, for example. There are a lot of yoga instructors out there who are indistinguishable from one another — each one seemingly enlightened and perfect. And then there’s Caren, a yoga teacher who talks openly about her experience with depression.
An expert would probably say it’s bad business to tell potential clients that you’re not perfect, but Caren’s openness doesn’t turn people off. In fact, it attracts clients, who are drawn to her story and inspired by her authenticity.
What really matters is that you identify your values and stay aligned with them. When you do this, you can rest assured that you’re doing meaningful, worthwhile work, no matter what anyone else says.
“When your values are clear to you, making decisions becomes easier”
For Mark, his values are doing good work that helps people while always pushing his creative limits. Some people align their values with making money and getting famous, but Mark is against this practice since fame and riches are external factors that are ultimately out of your control.
While you can’t determine how many people are going to buy your next product, you can determine the amount of work and care you put into it. So even if you don’t immediately reach through-the-roof sales, you can rest easy that you succeeded on your terms if your product is well made and truly does a good job of helping people as intended.
When you establish good internal values, meaning ones you can control, your sense of self-worth will also be in your control, as it should be.
Learn by doing and take a step back if things get off to a bad start.
There are all kinds of learning preferences, and some people are perfectly suited to the structure that schools and universities provide. But sometimes there can be a limit to how much you can learn from reading or listening to a lecturer — you need to go out and learn by doing.
“Learning is an active process. We learn by doing.. Only knowledge that is used sticks in your mind.”
Whatever your craft may be, learning by doing is the best way to develop and improve that craft. Mark doesn’t regret dropping out of college to work at a web design company because he knows that he learned a lot of valuable lessons on the job that he wouldn’t have learned at school. Only after spending a few years as the company’s creative director did he feel confident enough to venture forth and start his own business.
Still, when he started out, Mark made a lot of mistakes. But these became valuable lessons that allowed him to improve — and he wouldn’t learned them unless he was doing. Also, since putting out quality work is one of Mark’s core values, these mistakes became opportunities to improve the overall quality of his work.
However, this doesn’t mean that you should keep pushing things forward if your business has flat-lined or isn’t getting off the ground. If you find yourself stuck in a bad situation, don’t be stubborn and try to press on with business as usual. Instead, recognize it as a good time to stop what you’re doing, take a step back and reevaluate things.
“Sometimes the best thing you can do is take a step back and give yourself a chance to breathe”
Mark found himself in this exact situation with his freelance web design business so he hit the pause button and asked himself how he could do a better job helping his clients. Sure enough, stepping back gave him enough distance from the problem to clearly see the path forward, which involved completely restructuring his practices and procedures.
There are also steps you can take to reduce your chances of getting to such a point of stagnation that you need to hit that pause button. One of the better things to do is to keep experimenting, trying new things and staying up-to-date with what’s going on in your field.
To get started, avoid concerns about being perfect or what other people will think.
Once you’ve made the first step of having a great idea that speaks to who you are and what you value, it’s time to move on to the second step: overcoming the obstacles that are keeping you from realizing that idea. You may think that the obstacles are big and plentiful, but the good news is that many of them can be overcome by thinking differently and adjusting your outlook on the challenges ahead.
For example, you or someone you know may be a perfectionist — someone who doesn’t like to take on a project unless they know it’s going to come out flawlessly. No one wants to put out bad work, but if everyone only put out work they believed was absolutely perfect, the marketplace would be pretty empty.
In fact, it’s safe to say that absolute perfection doesn’t exist at all in the real world. It’s just a concept that keeps us from moving forward with a perfectly good idea. If perfection is a requirement for you, then you’ll most likely end up never having done anything, which is a far greater tragedy than producing something with a few flaws.
“We are not perfect human beings, nor do we have to pretend to be. But it is necessary for us to be the best version of ourselves we can be”
There’s another concern, often associated with being a perfectionist. Something that can also act as an obstacle to getting your work done, and it has to do with being judged.
These days, it’s hard to avoid criticism from anyone with a computer or smartphone. Every day, Mark gets a message, be it a tweet, an email or a one-star review, from someone who thinks his work stinks. He thinks of it as a virtual slap to the face, but it’s not something he’ll dwell on for too long. It’s just an unavoidable fact of life and you simply have to move on.
It also stings to lose a follower or a subscriber, but there are also the days when you’ll gain new fans and five-star reviews from people who really appreciate your work. You need to focus on the good rather than get stuck obsessing about the bad.
And here again is where it helps to have work that is aligned with your values. Since Mark’s work is all about sharing what he’s learned and trying to help others, he can rest easy knowing that his finished product met these values — despite what the haters might say.