(Hint: Not Bloody Likely)

You’ve all heard Ben Franklin’s infamous quote: “…in the world nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes.” Yes, we’ve got a slew of new technology now, but unless there’s a magic spell I missed, I’m pretty sure you still can’t “fail proof” anything — especially a business venture. There are just too many variables out of your control. Things like:

  • The economy at large
  • The daily lives of your prospective customers
  • The weather
  • What your competitors might decide to do
  • What your vendors are dealing with
  • Politics
  • New scientific discoveries

You get my drift, right? There are a LOT of things out of your control. And if anyone — even someone you trust and admire — tells you otherwise, they’re either young and naive or have gone to the Dark Side. Take a look at this one:

Chris GuilleabeauThis copy can be found on Chris Guillebeau’s new site, Yearofprofit.com.

And while I’ve admired Chris’ methods in the past, this little diddy made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

Why? We see this kind of thing all the time online. Why should I care? Why should you?

Because he has so many avid fans and followers. He’s up on a pedestal and that’s a dangerous place — for him and for us. Because when you get that popular, people tend to take what you say as gospel. (And run with it all the way to the poorhouse.)

So I reached out to Chris to ask him about his marketing copy. He didn’t really have a satisfactory explanation for me and asked that I not publish the content of our email exchange. He was polite and cordial, but stressed that he felt that “fail-proof” was entirely possible.

Now let me clarify here: I didn’t start out to write solely about Chris’ web copy. My original intent was to use his as just one example. I hate calling people out publicly. There’s enough negativity on the interwebz as it is, right? But after our email exchange, I felt we needed to spend a little quality time on his word choice.

Let me reiterate here: I think Chris has done a LOT of good in the world. I may not always agree with his methods or word choices, but he’s inspired a whole lot of folks to start a business. To take a leap when they needed to leap. Which might be a small part of the problem.

See, when we focus only on inspiring others to “think big” (world domination anyone?) there’s a tendency to avoid the ugly stuff. The things that don’t work. The stories of people who started something that ended badly.

If you read his $100 Start-Up book, you don’t get any ugly case studies. Everything is pretty much rainbows and butterflies. You’re shown story after story of folks who did what they set out to do — sans the struggles.

After reading all those stories, you might think “Hey, this doesn’t sound that hard. I could do this, too!” Which is definitely what Chris (and other folks who sell inspiration) want you to believe.

I’ve heard these kind of things before from other “gurus,” as well. “It’s simple! You just put up a website and do X, Y and Z and before you know it, you’re quitting your day job!” (If I had a dollar for every person who showed up on my doorstep wringing their hands because they couldn’t get past the technology part alone, I’d be a millionaire.)

People please. Pay attention and ask questions. Even — especially — when you’re getting advice from someone you admire and trust.

Remember: “simple” does NOT equal “easy”

Especially where business is concerned. And second, failing is actually a good thing. If you never fail, you never learn. So quit trying to “fail-proof” your life and embrace the reality that you will stumble and fall at some point. We all do. We’re all human here. And we can all make mistakes. Even me. Even Chris.

If he really believes that strongly in his product (and he has every right and obligation to do so), then why doesn’t he offer some sort of guarantee on his sales page? It’s a logical question. Why doesn’t he tell you the truth? That if you do all the work he’s laid out for you, you still might fail?

What do you think? Do you believe there’s a “fail-proof” way to grow a business?