The Tempting Illusion of “Guaranteed Success”

Everywhere you look, coaches, consultants, motivational speakers, and educators in our industry are peddling the lie that anyone can be successful…

if you buy their books and DVDs,
if you commit to their eight-month coaching program,
if you enroll in their webinar series,
if you join their mastermind community,

I tend to be criticized for taking a more rational, realistic approach. Instead of pushing (and profiting from) the absurd concept of “guaranteed success,” I encourage professionals and salon owners to understand that even the best laid plans sometimes fall through.

Nothing—especially success—can be guaranteed.

Audio Version

Season 3 [2019]
Season 3 [2019]
[3.5] The Tempting Illusion of "Guaranteed Success"

Foolproof plans don’t exist, and anyone who tells you otherwise needs a reality check.

We should accept responsibility for the roles we play in our own failures, but should not allow others to make us feel as if every one of those random, inevitable failures were somehow foreseeable or preventable.

Not every failure you experience will be your fault.

Those who preach the “guaranteed success” gospel have the luxury of pointing at the failures of others and claiming, with complete conviction,

“This would not have happened to you if…”
“Your problem would have been resolved if…”
“You could have prevented this if…”

Nobody can tell the future, not even these supremely uninformed elitists. No matter what inflated title they’ve bestowed upon themselves, experts, gurus, and masterminds of all kinds have no room to shame anyone—unless the person they’re shaming happens to be someone they’ve personally guided who chose to disregard their advice. Even then, they can only speculate as to how the failure could have been avoided.

Speculating and determining a list of potential solutions can be a valuable exercise that could help you prevent future mistakes, but to claim your success was a certainty, if only you had done something differently is absurd. People selling this narrative (both literally and figuratively) keep crawling out of the woodwork and poisoning our industry, deluding people into believing success can be packaged and sold like a commodity when it most certainly cannot.

This business can be rough.

Even with the progress we’ve made in the last decade, we’re probably not going to be ranking anywhere on the list of “employee-friendly careers” any time soon.

It can be incredibly difficult to make a career—let alone build a successful, profitable company—in the beauty business. The burdens of self-employment and salon ownership are intense, especially in such a competitive industry. Even figuring out how to find gainful employment can feel impossible for new entrants.

With such a steep learning curve, failures are inevitable.

New professionals who are just starting their careers and beauty entrepreneurs who are launching new enterprises are both doing something incredibly brave, but instead of finding praise and support, may find themselves battered with damaging messaging (whether in the form of “inspirational” memes or outright bad coaching).

Throughout my career as an educator and consultant, I’ve witnessed other so-called “industry leaders” do the following:

  • repeatedly claim, “failure is a choice,” in a trade show business seminar,
  • publicly condemn a salon owner in a professional networking group for being “naive” after her landlord unlawfully locked her out of the building without warning, and
  • blame professionals for being misclassified and having their wages stolen (calling them “stupid” and “victims of their own ignorance who deserved to be taken advantage of”).

The vast majority of the time, these people (who hilariously consider themselves “coaches” or “educators”) have a strong profit-motive or are trying to abdicate themselves of responsibility after someone has suffered the consequences of their bad advice.

Cultivate self-compassion.

Today, I’m here to tell you that sometimes, there are no viable solutions. Sometimes, the best you can do won’t be enough. Positive thinking isn’t a substitute for rational strategy, and neither can guarantee successful execution. Even the most hard-working hustlers fail.

After a professional setback, we tend to be harder on ourselves than we should be. Don’t let egomaniacs victim-blame you when you don’t deserve it or convince you that you’re the problem. Those who enjoy success the first time they attempt anything are the slim minority; not the rule.

The most successful people in the world are those who have failed over and over and over again.

As an industry, we’re having a hard enough time staffing our businesses and convincing the next generation that the careers we have to offer are viable, long-term opportunities. We can’t allow this bad information to continue to circulate, nor can we allow these amateur, wannabe “coaches” to poison our profession to line their own pockets.

If you happen to see this idiocy playing out in classrooms, conference venues, networking groups, or trade shows, please speak out against them. Don’t allow others to ruin this industry. In your own communications with other professionals, strive to be encouraging, supportive, and constructive. We can’t afford to allow others to drive a wedge between us for their own benefit.

If you liked this post, you might also like my article, “How to Progress After a Negative Career Experience,” a post written to help you move on in the most productive, least traumatizing way possible.

You might also enjoy, “Why You Should Quit,” where I teach you all about loss aversion, the sunk cost fallacy, and why persistence isn’t always a virtue.

What about you? Have you been victim-blamed or failure-shamed? How did it happen and how did it affect you? Have you ever been guilty of promoting damaging and overly-simplistic business advice? Has your opinion changed since reading this post? Tell me about it in the comments!


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5 Responses

  1. Thank you!!! I get so frustrated with how many people are taken advantage of in this business- Franchises especially that tell their prospective buyers that “The business will run its self” or that “they don’t need any experience”

    1. PREACH THAT TRUTH! I’d say roughly a full 1/3rd of my consulting clients are franchisees who are desperate to get out of their agreements with their franchisors because they were sold this fallacy of a “turnkey” business, only to find out that they basically paid to be a corporation’s employee…with all the risk of business ownership, none of the control entrepreneurship brings, and none of the benefits of employment.

  2. Good piece. Short and direct. I have been in this business since 1970 and owned 3 different Salons in 4 different locations for a total of over 31 years. I have see very difficult times. I have seen good owners loose their business. I have seen terrible owners keep their business for an incomprehensible length of time. I have seen great economy’s keep Salons afloat for no good reason other than that and now I see Salons like mine that have been in business for decades with good owners struggle in this good economy trying to keep up with the ever changing dynamic of this industry. One thing is for sure and that is no one is immune.

  3. Failure shamed by family members because they do not see this as a viable financial business or career. I can not talk about anything to do with my business. I only share advice if I made a bad mistake or it was a complete success and never give advice pretending to know what I’m talking about.

    1. The most important thing for all of us to keep in mind is that WE ARE ALLOWED TO BE HAPPY. We’re allowed to pursue jobs that make us feel good and suit our lifestyles. People, particularly in the US, belittle service professions and creative professions–and our job is a combination of both. They also belittle those who choose to follow their passions rather than pursuing profit and stability alone, and that’s tremendously sad, because our lives are too goddamn short to spend doing miserable, boring jobs.

      Let them talk. Let them shame. Odds are pretty good that they’ll never know what it feels like to be passionate about their work the way so many of us are. 🙂

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