“Easy Business Opportunities” vs. Doing Difficult Things on Purpose

May 23, 2019 ​- 17 Comments

I recently got one of those "make easy money" emails in my inbox. This one had such a dumb subject line, it inspired me to create this post. It read:

"[NEW] AgencyBlitz Allows ANYONE To Start An Agency NOW"

This subject line epitomizes so much of what is wrong with the make-money-online space - but it also illustrates a specific approach that has given me an advantage for many years.


Do Difficult Things

Today's content is primarily in the video above. The reason this video is more than just a rant is because it ties in with one of my core beliefs about entrepreneurship. I believe in doing difficult things.

Business is a competitive game. I know that other businesses are run by people. Humans, with all their biases, whims and weaknesses. And that means I can outperform competing businesses by outperforming competing humans.

Doing difficult things is, in short, a business advantage because most people would rather not do difficult things. Because as humans, we are comfort seeking.

And so, every time I do something that's both difficult and valuable for my business, I know I'm gaining ground on my competition.

I hope this is interesting food for thought, for you.

Let me know what you think by leaving a comment below!

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About ​Shane Melaugh

I'm the founder of ActiveGrowth and Thrive Themes and over the last years, I've created and marketed a dozen different software, information and SaaS products. Apart from running my business, I spend most of my time reading, learning, developing skills and helping other people develop theirs. On ActiveGrowth, I want to help you become a better entrepreneur and product creator. Read more about my story here.

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  • Ha! I can relate to this. And it’s not just the crappy subject lines. The ones I automatically throw away are the ones that assume I have a super-human memory or fantastic powers of deduction. By that, I mean the companies that do something pretty obscure and expect me to remember them six months down the line – and don’t even bother to explain who they are or what they do in the email. And the other one is the companies that send emails that have a personal name only, and no company name, who do the same thing and expect me to figure out who they represent. Clearly they have no clue who I am or any interest in communicating in any useful way. Bin.

    • Interesting examples! I think this is an easy mistake to make. As the person writing the email, you have the curse of knowledge. You can’t imagine that the recipient doesn’t know who you/your business is. :D

  • Shane, you make some great points about doing things that are hard and exceptional to separate yourself from the crowd. However not everyone can do that and in the case of network marketing, you don’t want to do that.

    In network marketing the key ingredient is duplication and if people think they have to be a great speaker or presenter they won’t get involved because they don’t think or want to speak. So being exceptional in that space is a negative not a positive.

    Also for other business models, you still want to give people the opportunity to succeed and change their lives, without being exceptional, but rather by using systems. There is a great quote that goes “The system is the leverage by which turn ordinary people into extraordinary performers.”

    So while being exceptional does indeed give you the ability to separate yourself from the crowd, there is also a place for those who want the same things that exceptional people do, but don’t have the ability to do what they do.

    • This doesn’t ring true to me.

      In network marketing, there is extreme inequality of outcomes. There are very few people at the top who do well and then everyone else, who loses money. People who do well in network marketing are exceptional sales people. Maybe part of the sales tactic is to convince people that they don’t need to be extraordinary to join, but the reality is that only exceptionally good sales people make it past break even in a network marketing business.

      “there is also a place for those who want the same things that exceptional people do, but don’t have the ability to do what they do.” is there? Where is that place?
      Isn’t getting exceptional results without doing exceptional things a pipe-dream by definition?

      You mention systems, but systems have the same economic effect as I describe in this video. When a new opportunity opens up and there’s a way to systematize and reach an economically valuable outcome, some form of mass production begins and the value gets driven down. It becomes a competition of who can best systematize, mass produce and minimize cost. In this way, the market leads to an outcome in which everyone can have exceptional things (that are mass produced), but those exceptional things become the norm.

      So, you’re right in the sense that we have things like smartphones, access to information, transportation etc. without needing to be exceptional. And those things are all astonishing, when you think about it. But that’s not the kind of exceptional I mean.

  • Stein Varjord says:

    Hi Shane,
    Great points and weirdly synchronised with my own similar ideas when recently revisiting the video from just before the Focus and Action course, where you make a joke about the people looking for a quick fix and guaranteed profit without wanting to put in any effort to get there. “…Oh, they’re probably gone already…” :-)

    “Do difficult things” might be understood as “do things that demand great talent or skill”, while I feel that’s not what your main point is. You’re pointing at an option for a business advantage. Our competitors are just normal people, as flawed as we all are. The quite simple act of really trying our best, will make us gain on most competitors, no matter what talent or skill level they’re on. That’s an encouraging thought!

    • Yes, exactly. You know, these days I don’t really believe in talent anymore. The book Peak by K. Anders Ericsson makes a great point about this. They set out to research where talent comes from, by looking at some of the most wildly talented people they could find. And every time, when they try to examine an example of innate ability, what they find instead is evidence of long, intensive practice. So, I think of it in terms of skill, which you can acquire.

  • How very true. What you are basically saying is: study and learn how to be really good at one thing. Then study and learn how to be really good at another thing. Keep repeating. Studying and learning is something very few people will do, once they are out of required formal school. What Shane is saying is: that when you really study, really work to find out how to do something, you have a real advantage over your competitors. You have a skill, knowledge and a mindset that will help you be a top performer throughout your life. You have a very real advantage that someone cannot take from you.

    • Yes, exactly. Skill, experience and knowledge can’t be taken away from you. And they are like a moat you build, to fortify your position. Because there’s no shortcut to these things, your competitors have to cross that moat to catch up with you.

      Of course, that’s only true if you also apply this skill, knowledge and experience in a smart way. :)

  • Shane, I forgot to share the email headline. The latest is this: “Are you fear to win? Grab your chance rapidly!”

    I think I should stop this post right now and go grab my opportunity before it goes away kkkkk

    Again, thanks for the amazing content!

  • Great points, as usual, Shane!

    I have none of those emails because I have unsubscribed (or never subscribed in the first place! ;-) LoL!), even before taking “focus & action!” :D

    However, I have seen the attitude you are describing… “Everyone” (using the term loosely) wants an easy “fix,” a system (w/o work!), done for you (like a turnkey system) or “passive income…

    I see this constantly, in comments on courses I’ve taken (cough, cough!)… Most people just want the outcome delivered on the proverbial “silver platter!”

    I’ve seen this with every one of my in-person classes…to the point of ridiculousness: many students would rather ask very “specific-use” questions (they don’t apply to the group, just their own particular situation/niche/demographic) than search for the answer in Google… They don’t want to look for answers and options… It never occurs to them — or they can’t be bothered — to see how other experts have done something!

    I wondered about the commonality of this… I think back to when my older son — now 32 — was in high school & college… He would much rather ask his friends — who had no more experience than he did about particular questions — than go the source for direct information…

    I think it’s another symptom of our “connected” time in history…

    There! That’s my rant! :D

    You’re “spot on” as usual…and I do love your rants! They always help me think “out of the box!” :D <3

    • Now that you mention it, I’ve also noticed that about questions being asked. And I’ve had to adjust the way I teach, because I have a great love for principles, but when teaching it’s the specifics that most people want.

      • desafiandobrasil says:

        Hi Shane,

        I share your love for principles. What experience has taught me, especially when teaching my kids, is that the most effective way to help someone learn quickly is to back into principles from practical experiences and examples.

        I noticed that I can teach my kids complex and advanced algebra by setting up concrete experiments using plastic cups and grains of coffee and let them struggle with them for a bit.

        Then, I help them solve it. Only THEN do I start talking about principles and they get it very quickly.

  • Excellent Vid. And so true: Why on earth should I want to get into a business that clearly has very low or no barriers to entry. It makes zero biz sense.

    Keep out the competition by having a business with high barriers to entry that for you alone are low(ish), such as skill, tenacity, contacts, whatever.

    Ok here is my wackiest headline this morning: “Make money with your woodworking skills!” Woodworking skills??? Really??? Why am I even getting that?

  • Thanks for the video, and for the brilliant thoughts. I had to watch it twice. First part, at least theoretically was clear to me. I know that the dream of every business should be to become a monopoly. Monopolies never lost money. Or the Buffet definition of a good business as a “castle protected by a moat”. What was new to me was the way to make it happen, the second part of the video. I was excepting some magical idea. Or maybe a lot of capital. So it is a brilliant idea that competitive advantage is the focused work. And it makes sense, in sports for example we can think as focused tanning, without magical secrets, as the most decisive factor. It can be so simple or complex like that. I would love to see some post about how to organize it with teams. I guess that starting with oneself. So, great post. I have always been a great believer of the power of “sustainable thought” to overcome every problem. So good to have this video about the power of the mind :)

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