How to Measure Whether You’re Good Enough

How to Measure Whether You’re Good Enough

Remember kindergarten? For every goal you reached, like writing your name or finally spelling C-A-T, you got a gold star or a new pencil.

In grade school, there were Principal Awards and End of Year Prizes. In college, you earned certificates of merit, achievement prizes, and academic scholarships. Even in the nine-to-five grind, it’s still possible to earn Employee of the Month or some token of esteem for 10 years of service.

But not online.

Online, there’s no reward of excellence. There’s no teacher giving you a gold star to prove you’re good at what you do. There’s no certificate of merit to show everyone you’re good enough.

So what did we do? We made up our own.

The “I’m Good Enough” Award

There are thousands of people out there competing for this award. Few of them realize that’s what they’re doing, but they’re working hard to complete all the requirements. The requirements have not, to date, been formally written down, but we’re going to solve that right now so that any confusion can be avoided.

The “I’m Good Enough” Award is granted to all online entrepreneurs who are worthy of running a business. They may do so by demonstrating prowess in each of the following three categories.

First, all candidates must have an overflowing inbox.

Since the number of emails clearly directly correlates to a business’ success, it follows that any successful business will be forced to handle an enormous amount of mail. Proof of inbox overflow may be demonstrated through various social media channels over time.

It starts with complaints about too many emails to handle. Then a couple of tweets about blocking off a day to get rid of all this email. Then there’s the countdown to Inbox Zero – which will happen several times a month.

Next comes writing a blog post about email-management strategies.

Finally, there’s the declaration you’re going minimalist. You’re unsubscribing from a ton of stuff, setting up auto-responders and even refusing to reply to new mail.

It’s very impressive stuff – surely deserving of an award, no? All thriving businesses have too much email, so doesn’t it follow that having too much email indicates a thriving business is at work?

Second, all candidates must be exhausted.

All candidates must show that they are utterly exhausted by the sheer bulk of the work in front of them. Since lots of work clearly equals achievement, the candidate is clearly due recognition for becoming so busy.

Candidates may demonstrate their qualifications in the form of social media.

You write on Facebook that you’re swamped with coaching calls. Your schedule is packed. And there aren’t enough hours in a day. You’re overworked. And you’re loving it! You leave a steady stream of comments that go something like this:

“Can’t stay! Gotta get back to work. Got people’s lives to transform!”

Third, all candidates must demonstrate a vast knowledge base.

Obviously it would be too difficult to simply ask questions in your area of expertise, so candidates must show they are actively acquiring knowledge through such track-able mediums as seminars, conferences, e-courses, and so forth.

The more the candidate participates in these mediums, the more qualified they are considered to be.

You attend every conference, sign up for every seminar, buy every ecourse and show up for every free webinar.  You consume education voraciously and read hundreds of blogs, hoping to find that missing piece of knowledge that’ll shoot you to business big times.  

Of course, you don’t actually apply any of this knowledge to your business – you’re too busy hoping that merely appearing in the forums or on the call will somehow mean you get noticed and elevated to superstar status.

Why Do We Pursue This Award?

It’s completely empty, after all. Our followers aren’t interested in how busy we are, what webinar we’ve signed up for, or what we learned reading someone else’s blog. None of that information makes us more hire-able or even more of an expert in our field.

It doesn’t earn us respect, and it certainly doesn’t bring in business. So why are so many of us in full-on pursuit of the “I’m Good Enough” Award?

I know why I did it.

I wanted to know that I mattered.  I wanted to know that I was valued.  I wanted to know that someone noticed me.
I thought if someone saw how busy, how in-demand, how committed I was, my business would automatically be considered successful. Instead, I got this pointed question:

“Are you in business? Or are you just busy?”

Not quite the accolade I was looking for.  More like a slap in the face.

But it was what I needed to realize something very important about online success:

There is no “I’m Good Enough” Award.

It’s not about how busy you are, how many emails you received or how many blogs you read.

The only measure an online business needs is the bank balance. The only score you need to keep is whether you are making more money then you are spending. 

All the rest is just noise, and keeping you away from what is really important – your business.

Wait a minute, you may be thinking. What about doing a job I enjoy? What about the clients who love me and shout their adoration from the rooftops? What about the quality of the work I do?

These things are all important to you personally and professionally, but they are not what makes you successful as a businessperson – and you shouldn’t mistake them as such. You could have a hundred grateful clients, a job you love, and work you’re proud of – but if you haven’t made a dime off of any of it, you don’t have a business.

You just have a lot of work.

You don’t need someone to tell you that you’re doing great. You don’t need anyone to say how proud they are that you got a new client. You don’t need to compete with your peers over who has the fullest inbox or the most extensive feed reader.

Your certificate of achievement comes every time you get payment from a client. See that big number? That’s your gold star.

That’s how you know you’re no longer just busy – you’re in business.

Post by Ainslie Hunter

Ainslie Hunter is an online education consultant who knows how to turn your great idea for a course into cold, hard cash. Sign up now for Email Courses that Matter, and you'll be well on your way.

Join the Discussion. Click Here to Leave a Comment.

  1. Ainslie, fantastic piece! And one that hits a little close to home in some places (“Next comes writing a blog post about email-management strategies” — yeah, I’ve done a few of those in my time…)

    I think this is a wider problem, too; there’s a sense from a lot of my traditionally-employed family/friends that “being busy” somehow equals “being a valued person” — even if your health and relationships are suffering as a result.

    One of the things I love about having an online biz is that I can work the hours I choose. Granted, I do sometimes end up working on the weekends — but this meant I could take three weeks off for a trip round Europe last month! It’s also great to be able to spend a weekday or two on my novel instead of on paid work.

    Anyway, thanks for a great post, Ainslie — one that’s given me a fair bit of food for thought! :-)

  2. Hey Ali

    I actually wrote this piece after catching myself tweeting ‘look how busy I am posts” and then taking a hard look at myself. And I am certainly not saying everyone should stop tweeting what they are up to.

    I just think a lot of us need to be careful we aren’t measuring our worth by what we say about ourselves online.



  3. Ha,

    As a fairly new blogger who is beginning to see the big-picture, getting that nice tap on the back or a gold star stamped on my forehead is a great feeling.

    But you’re right.

    If you sit in your chair, with coffee in hand, and go back to the first post you ever read to how you write now, that alone can conjure up a cheek-to-cheek smile. It’s amazing what happens when you start from nothing. Literally an idea spurred up into this beautifully-designed, well-written content in a matter of months.

    Just thinking about it is bliss.

    Fabulous post Ainslie (By the way you’re the first person that I have ever read with the name Ainslie, pretty cool).

  4. I LOOOOOOVE this! I especially love this because I’ve been feeling like a loser blogger lately, seeking accolades and approval (ie – Twitter followers and opt ins), but not generating one lousy dime from my online presence (though I do have an overflowing mailbox and too many guest blog posts to write).

    However…(and here’s where your post really resonated), I have a new (and already pretty successful) freelance copywriting biz, and I’m on track right now to crack six figures in my first year. This was a great reminder of where my bread is buttered and how important it is to focus our energy on the things that ultimately matter in our professional lives.

  5. That is some serious truth! I had no idea I was constantly trying to win that award. Your article really hit home for me. And although I am not making money with my online appearance yet, I am awarding myself a gold star until I do. :)

    Also, busy is a great way to avoid things that you don’t want to do. I am working through this one as well.

    • Hi Cathy,

      Yep doing that busy work is best avoidance tactic out there. It’s a hard one to crack, especially since we first started using it in grade school.


  6. Hi Ainslie!

    Spot on post. The whole “I’m busier than you” thing used to drive me crazy in the corporate world. Although I’m not always successful I try to remember:

    When my inbox is overflowing I’m doing something wrong.
    When I sign up for more than two courses or seminars a year I’m doing something wrong.
    When I’m too busy to respond to someone on social media I’m doing something wrong.
    When I don’t have time to enjoy the things I want to I’m doing something wrong.

    It’s not a competition, it’s my life. As long as the bills are paid I consider myself a success. Thanks for the reminder.

    And I think I see James rubbing off on you :)

  7. Are you in business or are you just busy? That is GOLD!

    Many thanks for your lovely article.

    Marya :)

  8. Ainslie,

    You’ve nailed the topic, and it’s not just relevant for web based business.
    I see it occurring in manufacturing, retail and consulting industries as well.


    • Hey Scott

      Thanks for stopping by. I think you are correct. The problem exists in every industry. I suppose the upside is that we who put our head down and work reap the rewards.


  9. Siita Rivas says:

    Thanks for the great post Ainslie – They’re excellent points that remind me – not everyone online sees business as being ‘in’ business. Funny that for some it’s busy ness hey! not business.

    Silly then to seek approval from anyone but ourselves and our achievements. Often easy to say but hard to do when we love being online.
    I think we are wired to seek approval ! I’m constantly reminding myself to reach for the pliers and cut that hard wiring because its a distraction that takes you further away from the business of being in business.

  10. Excellent post, Ainslie. I had to pop on over from my email (which is where I read most MWP posts) and comment on this one. It really resonated with me because I’ve been there, done that (at least some of it) and then, I stopped and thought about it. And it all seemed SO silly.

    I agree with @Siita on that we’re wired to seek approval.

    Now I only think about my business, where to take it next and the balance sheet. Focusing on that helps SO much more:-)
    Thanks for a great post!

  11. Hey Prerna

    Thanks for stopping by.

    I agree with you – looking at the business stats are so much more motivating than the number of Retweets or size of your inbox.


  12. It is so easy to get caught in those busy loops. As you say, the bottom line is the bottom line.
    Great reminder. Thanks.

  13. Well said!

    “Never mistake motion for action.” –Ernest Hemingway (possibly cribbing from Benjamin Franklin)

    Steve Blank also has a nice post on this theme:

    “The difference between the two ways of thinking is why successful entrepreneurs have the reputation for being relentless. To an outsider it looks like they’re annoyingly persistent. The reality is that their eyes are on the prize.”

  14. Very true!

    I also like Abe Crystal’s comment. We should actually stay persistent and aim for the bigger prize. A new bee in this trade of entrepreneurship, I can relate to the feeling, “I want to be known”. It can be very distracting.

    But I also believe in doing what the heart desires so long as it does not interfere with the ultimate goals.

    Looking forward to your next post.

  15. Cory Annis, MD (Unorthodoc) says:


    Have you been hanging out at my desk?
    You hit the nail on it’s very thick head!


  16. Always got a ”slap on face” post when I enter in menwithpens. And this post open my mind to the true unique in business: “make more money than you spend”.


  17. First time stopping by the blog and loving it.

    I consider it an awesome workday if I do something for myself, my company, and my family. You nailed it on the exhaustion point.

  18. Yup you summed it when you say “Your certificate of achievement comes every time you get payment from a client” . The goal of a business is money and let no one else tell you otherwise. Thanks, many people need that reminder!

    I would just add a little line to it “doing something you really feel for”

    You know if I only wanted more money I would go become a mafia drug lord or something :)

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