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The Dark Side of Success

It was back in 2011 and I was getting tired of all the noise online about how to build a coaching practice.

I was tired of all the people teaching you how to hustle… And how to offer 25 minute taster sessions… And how to create glossy websites… And how to use targeted Google and Facebook Ads… And SEO and CPC and PPV and SMO… OMG!

So I partnered with my friend Steve Chandler and we wrote a book called The Prosperous Coach.

Someone told me recently that you should never write a book that you wouldn’t love to be talking about in 3 years.

Well, it’s six years since The Prosperous Coach was first published and I still love talking about it. And it’s still selling 1,000 copies a month, every single month. Without a single online ad.

The Dark Side of Success

Most people focus on the trappings of success and they miss its’ traps. But success always has a dark side.

And I began to face mine, over the past couple of years…

The irony is that because my book sold so well, my coaching practice began to change.

I’ve always had between 3 and 5 private clients. And they always come by invitation and referral only. 

But over time, I also began to build a community of incredible coaches, through our live Intensives. And then I began to build 4PC, our community of really top performers.

I grew my team from just me, a virtual assistant and a graphic designer to a team of ten people.

I used to run events for 30 people and I began to run events for 150 people.

I went from being a coach to being a manager. I coached less. I had coaches working for me – coaching and enrolling clients.

So here I was, an expert at building a boutique business – one relationship at a time – leading a business that was growing fast. 

And I fell into a trap. I began to believe that there is only one thing you can do with a business that’s growing… 

And that’s to scale it. 

Well, that’s what everyone tells you, right? Scale up. Go big. Achieve growth.

So I did.

I grew, and I scaled, and I scaled, and I grew.

If you think it’s your Zone of Genius but it drains you, it isn’t

On the outside, I had a successful business.

On the inside, I was frustrated, I was bored, I was exhausted. I had less time with my family and I wasn’t having much fun anymore. 

I love building teams. I love nurturing and supporting people. And my business was really growing. So I couldn’t understand why my energy was shrinking… 

And then I heard Verne Harnish say, If you think it’s your Zone of Genius but it drains you, it isn’t!

And it hit me… I’m a great manager but I am an extraordinary coach and I’m a visionary leader. And when I am doing anything but the latter two, I get drained of energy.

Building teams is fun for me. It’s my Zone of Excellence. I do it better than most people. But it’s not my Zone of Genius.

So, I told my team that it was time for me to get back to coaching and creating.

My business plan for years has been a single line: Meet fun and interesting people. And I said to the team, “Let’s fill my calendar with conversations with fun and interesting people.”

If scaling up doesn’t make your heart sing, scale back

I’d been doing all the things you’re ‘supposed’ to do to grow a business when I realized that I didn’t want to scale up, I wanted to scale back

I began to scale back my time and my energy. I began to do things that made me feel alive again. We had our core team go from 10 people to 3 people and things felt fun, exciting and energizing. My heart began to sing, again!

I filled my calendar with coaching experiences like The Deep Dive and small group coaching sessions for 4PC members. 

I launched Project Kairos to help leaders create a boutique practice with a handful of high-performing clients. And it sold out, 8 weeks and 1 day after I created it!

I even had my right hand woman lock me out of my email account other than for a couple of hours a week.

I went on vacation to Croatia for a month. And I got to travel with my mum. This is us on a trip to Venice, Italy. That expression on our faces is because we’re caught in a gondola traffic jam!

I have a friend who received a huge investment in his business a few years back. It seemed so exciting but the last time I saw him he was completely worn out. It’s not so easy to relax when other people’s money is invested in your company.

I have another friend who travels across the US, giving keynotes for big corporations. That seemed so glamorous but he just got divorced because his wife was tired of him not being around.

I coached a man who had sold his business for 8 figures. He said to me, “Rich, I was about to start my second business, when I realized that I only started the first to be happy… And I’m still not happy.”

Monkey traps!

Success has traps in it.

And what got you here won’t get you there. 

In fact, what got you here can sometimes be precisely what is holding you back from where you want to go next. 

A monkey trap is a cage, or even just a hole in a tree, used by a hunter in Africa. It has a hole containing a banana that is just large enough for a monkey’s hand to fit in, but not large enough for a monkey’s fist (clutching a banana) to come out.

It’s used to catch monkeys quite simply because they lack the imagination to let go of the banana and run away!

It’s sad and slightly funny but here’s the thing… We all have monkey traps. 

What are you holding onto so tightly that it’s trapping you, right now?!

If you coach top performers, make it your job to help them discover the dark sides of their success.

And if you are a top performer, make it your job to hire a great coach – to help you discover the dark sides of your own success.

Love. Rich


PS. More transparency here: almost 20 years into my coaching career, I still get nervous every time I launch a new program. When the first person signs up, it always feels like a fluke! And it’s only after the second person is in that I believe it’s real.

Well, the first two people have already signed up for The $100K Club, so strap in, we are ready to fly!!

There are now just 13 spots left at the early bird price. They include a gift ticket to my four newest programs (a $3,686 value bonus). Don’t miss this opportunity to join an exclusive group of coaches committed to growth and success.

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