Why I “Fired” My Business Mentor

Robert was a retired business executive from corporate America who came to see me when his back acted up.At some point, he offered to be my business mentor and I took him up on it. Looking back, he helped me avoid some major business mistakes, like when I was neglecting my private practice as I worked to build an on-site massage service. But one piece of advice that he had given me was ultimately not right for me. It was: Stick with what you do best.

Too Many Balls In the Air

When I first suggested to Robert that I was thinking about developing and teaching massage CE classes I could see the concerned look on his face. He had good reason to be concerned—I’m a person who often has too many balls in the air. Robert wanted me to “stick with what I did best” and advised against going into teaching because my main income was coming from private practice massage. And this new business venture would be pulling time and resources away from my private practice.

“Stick to What You Do Best” Problem

“Stick to what you do best” makes complete sense when looking at a single business that you’re trying to grow. Here’s how Robert saw it play out in my business: I spend my time doing massage (what he thought I did well). I invest in advertising which brings in more clients. When clients are beating down my door to get in, I bring in another MT to work for me.

The problem with “sticking to what I do best” was that even though I loved massage, I knew that just doing massage wouldn’t be enough to make me happy. In addition, private practice massage has its ups and downs. Clients go on vacation and cash flow drops. And I wanted the security of having another business that wasn’t entirely dependent on the health of my body.

Eventually, I went against Robert’s advice and developed and taught CE classes. Looking back I now realize that I wasted A LOT of time trying to motivate myself to follow a “stick to what you do best” business plan that didn’t excite me instead of pressing the accelerator with CE classes.

Two Questions

In retrospect, I would have served myself better if I had asked myself these questions when thinking about teaching:

  1. Am I (or could I be) good at this?
  2. Does it fit my vision for the future?

Could I Be Good at This?

My short answer to could I be good at teaching was “yes”. The longer answer was: I thought I would eventually be comfortable teaching, but I didn’t know for sure. I had trained MTs to work for my wife and me over the course of ten years. But there’s a big difference between working with 1 or 2 MTs in my massage room and standing confidently in front of a class. Fortunately, I had received enough positive feedback from the MTs I had trained that I thought I had a shot at being a decent teacher.

Does it Fit My Vision?

The word vision used to bother me. It sounded like a fancy way to say that I’m an aimless dreamer. But as I started to do my business research, I realized that a vision can be a primary driver to keeping me motivated and on track to meet goals.

For a long time, I thought about a vision, but nothing stuck. I was discouraged. But then one day, a vision suddenly crystallized, probably as a result of putting in the needed work to think through different vision scenarios.

My vision was to have multiple sources of income through doing things I liked to do. Teaching fit perfectly into that vision.

Lastly, I was old enough to know that if my vision wasn’t a vision that my wife, Lisa, supported, it wasn’t going to work. Lisa was 100% on board and she provided extra motivation (aka, a kick in the pants) when I wanted to quit.

Let Me Know How I Can Help You

From a pure business standpoint, Robert may have been right when he said “stick with what you do best”. But solely sticking to what I was good at wasn’t fulfilling to me, and it ultimately didn’t move me in the direction of my vision—to have multiple streams of income.

Are you thinking about or are in the process of getting good at something else? It’s not an easy decision to make. As you do your research, let me know if there is any way that I can help you. You can always reach me by leaving a comment here or sending me an email. I’ll be here:-)

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2 comments… add one
  • Bobbi Mar 26, 2016, 11:55 pm

    I think that goes back to our discussion of “maximizing profit”. Working toward a life goal can be much more appealing. Well said.

    • Mark Liskey Mar 27, 2016, 4:25 am

      Appreciate your comment, Bobbi! Yes, maximizing profit and minimizing meaning (not working towards a life goal) doesn’t seem to be a formula that works for you or me. I always enjoy our discussions–and not just because we agree most of the time:-)

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