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Exposed Excellence: Sharing The Struggle In Your Pursuit For Excellence

[A Complement To Ramit Sethi‘s Article “…Stop Writing About How Vulnerable You Are“]


Social media displays the world through success-filtered glasses.
But it doesn’t share the whole story.
The whole truth.

I’d rather read about how you can’t pay rent and then hustled your way out of the hole.

About how everyone thinks you are successful, but you feel like a fraud.

About how you went bankrupt, felt like a pile of shit and then clawed your way back to a positive place.

My friend right now has a retail business and is in a boatload of debt.

Payables due yesterday and receivables not coming in for 60 days.

I want to hear how he is selling his home, his art, his outdoor gear and everything valuable he has to pursue his dream.

Even if it doesn’t work.

It’s real.

But, it can be a slippery slope.

When you are in the middle of Hurricane Shitstorm, sharing your vulnerabilities and struggles will sound like desperation.
It will sound pathetic.
Even if you’re being honest.
And vulnerable.

When I’m in the middle of a storm, the last thing I want to do is share it.

At some of my lowest points, I don’t want to look at myself in the mirror much less write an article on it.

When you publicly share your struggle in the middle of the storm, it’s not courageous or brave.
It comes off as sad.
And as if you’re looking for sympathy.

It’s courageous and brave once the storm starts to subside.
Share that.
Share what got you out of the experience.
Share how you turned that disaster into a beautiful creation.

When I created my first seven figure business, it was the first time I ever had money.
To not worry about money was a weird feeling.
It had always been the root of all stress.

And as I made more money, I spent more money.
Saving wasn’t an option.
Making more money was the only option.

I started flying first class.
I started spending months in different countries.
I traveled on a whim.
I bought a Range Rover and AP watch.

I shared my great life on social media.

I didn’t share how I ate shit for nine failed businesses prior.
I didn’t share the struggle that made the wins so meaningful.

It was a facade.
A thin layer of amazing social media posts covering a pool of insecurities.

In business, I think I’m an idiot-savant.

I don’t know how to look at a P/L statement, yet I have built a high seven figure business and started another eight figure business.

I use the word “built” very loosely.

In that seven-figure business, scaling meant spending more money on credit cards for ad spend, not building a team and infrastructure.
Both of which I was terrible at.

I like sharing my wins.
Never having money before, it felt good.
I wanted everyone to know it too.
Part of me was proud.
Mostly I was insecure.

This is why I think it’s important to share the struggle in your pursuit of excellence.
Just sharing the wins and living in “success theater” is misleading.
Especially to those people that are being sold the lie that entrepreneurship is sexy and easy.

Notice how I said “share the struggle in your pursuit of excellence.”
This doesn’t mean to share the struggle and your vulnerabilities for sympathy.
Or to whine.
Or to gain social media likes and comments.

It means sharing your true journey on the road to whatever success means for you.
Whatever excellence means for you.

Is “failure” overly celebrated today? Yeah, it definitely is.
The point isn’t to fail. Or to even like failure.
The point is to fail less.
The point is to have micro-fails rather than macro-fails.
And to learn from the micro-fails to get micro-wins.

To be clear, the goal is always excellence.
However, in achieving excellence, we all go through hail storms (I promise that’s my last weather reference).

To write off “failure” as unimportant is ludicrous.
Maybe it shouldn’t be celebrated, but it should 100% be embraced.

I’m still waiting for the unicorn entrepreneur that hasn’t failed their way to success.
If you know her, please send her my way.
I have a couple questions.

People love stories around mistakes and failures.
This isn’t because people love to commiserate about others failures.

It’s for one reason and one reason alone.

It’s the most important ingredient in any story.
Conflicts. Mistakes. Struggles. Failures.
And people love stories.
Way more than blog posts and articles talking about “7 Unusual Content Marketing Strategies for the New Year.”

A good story that doesn’t involve some kind of strife or conflict simply does not exist.
It’s not interesting.
It’s the same reason social media isn’t interesting, or helpful.
You see the wins, not the strife.

It’s not okay to define yourself by vulnerabilities.
The same way it’s not okay to define yourself by successes.
You are comprised of your whole story, not just select parts of it.
The good, the great, the shit.

We’re all at different stages. Ramit is well ahead of me.
He has written a hell of a lot more on the subject.
He was an entrepreneur before I could even spell or define the word.

Regardless of what stage you’re at in the journey, there is one thing we should all do.
Drop the facade.
I had mine up for a long time.
I still do at times.

It’s okay to not always have your shit together.

I’d like to propose a new way to think about failure, facades and success.

Let’s call it The Success Facade Framework

Quadrant_Fail_On (1)

In the upper right quadrant, we have the entrepreneur that practices Exposed Excellence.

This is the stage that most entrepreneurs aspire to.
Wildy successful based on their own definition of success.
Not putting up any kind of front or facade.
Sharing their whole truth and helping others.

James Altucher is in this category.

He bares his whole heart.
He exposes everything so others can learn from his journey.

In our podcast episode, he shares, “I’ve written so much about failing in business, losing a home, losing marriages, losing other businesses, losing everything and I decided, okay, well this gives me a chance to not be some BS guy like every other person who says, ‘Oh, do this or do that.’ I’m just going to apply my own philosophy to what just happened. Bad things happen so let’s see if what I always say works once again for me.”

James practices what he preaches.

He doesn’t just write about vulnerability looking for sympathy.
He does it to show that when you are at your lowest point, you can bounce back.

In the lower right quadrant, we have the Selfish entrepreneur.
They are successful, but closed off.
They don’t share their process, their struggles or their learnings.
They want to wallow in success and act as if it were easy.
As if they are better than you.

In the upper left quadrant we have the Admirable entrepreneur.
They are in the pursuit of success and excellence while also being totally open with their process.

They understand that sharing their journey will lead to personal insights as well as guidance from others.

They understand that sharing their journey is vitally important for everyone that will follow in their footsteps in the future.

And if we’re not here to help others, what the hell is the point?

In the bottom left quadrant, we have the Insecure entrepreneur.

This was me for a long time.

And it’s not necessarily a bad place to be. It just means you are in a vacuum.
And when you’re in a vacuum, you don’t get guidance from others.
You are left to your own devices.

And let me tell you a secret.
No one achieved success on their own.

So make the shift, share your journey.

Share your struggles.

It doesn’t make you weak or pathetic.
It helps you deconstruct your process.
It makes you learn faster.
It helps you fail less.
It helps you win more.

It’s not about whether you should focus on vulnerability OR excellence.

It’s about pursuing excellence without having a facade up.
It’s about pursuing your dreams while not acting like you know what the hell you are doing.
Because none of us do.
We are just trying to get better everyday.

So, be real.
Be vulnerable.
Show your work.
Share your journey.
And always pursue Exposed Excellence.

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