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Why the Deck is (Unfairly) Stacked Against You When You Are Starting a New Business

  • Danny InyDanny Iny

Warning: This post is long, and it may not be a fun post for you to read, but I think it’s an important message to share with you…

When you are starting a new business, your head is full of dreams.

Dreams about the life that you’ll create for yourself, the impact that you’ll make on the community that will assemble around you, and the difference that you’ll make in the world.

You’re intimidated to get started – it feels like you’re outmatched and outgunned by the big players in your space – how can you compete with their exposure, their reach, or their resources? Do you know how to promote your business?

But the experts tell you that no, it’s a level playing field, and anyone’s voice can be heard. All it takes is a bit of hard work and elbow grease, and before you know it, you’ll be playing in the big leagues, too.

So you trust them, and dive into starting a new business. You work long, hard hours, but months later – and sometimes YEARS later – it feels like you’ve got nothing to show for it.

The truth is that they’re wrong, you’re right.

The deck really is stacked against you, and it isn’t fair…

I Used to Believe the “Experts”, Too…

Before we go any further, there’s something that I need to tell you: I used to believe the experts.

I used to believe that it really is a completely level playing field, and anyone’s voice can be heard. I used to believe that all it takes is hard work, elbow grease, commitment, and dedication.

And I held firm to those beliefs as I built Mirasee.

We started at zero, back at the end of 2010, and over the last couple of years, we’ve grown to a multiple-six-figure business, driven by an engaged community of tens of thousands of wonderful people.

And the whole time, I really believed that I was playing with the same cards as the really big players.

It’s only now that Mirasee has reached this scale that I’m seeing what it looks like from the other side.

And I was wrong. It’s totally different – once you’ve grown past a certain point, you’re playing with an entirely different set of cards…

It’s a Whole Different Set of Cards…

Let’s be totally honest, all cards on the table.

Once your business is up, running, and generating lots of revenue by creating lots of value for large numbers of people, a lot of things get much, much easier.

Here are some of the things that change once you’ve really “made it”:

  • Time. The first thing that changes completely is time. If you’re just starting out, then you’re probably trying to build your business on the side, while continuing to work in the job that pays your bills. That’s tough, because it means that you don’t have all that much time to build your business, and you’re probably tired most of the time from all the other stuff that you’ve got to do. Once your business is up, running, and profitable, though, you can afford to quit your job, so you have dramatically more time to invest in your business.
  • Money. Directly related to time is money – the reason why you can afford to spend more time on your business is that money isn’t the constraint that it used to be. In the beginning, you just don’t have much money (that’s often why people think about starting a business in the first place!), and there are tons of things that you need to buy… technology, training (more on that in a moment), advertising, and the list just goes on and on – not to mention repaying debt, which a lot of people need to do. And if that wasn’t unfair enough, things are also a lot more expensive when you’re starting out; you experiment with different technologies because you don’t know which is best, and you don’t know where to find the best deals. Your advertising isn’t well optimized, and costs a lot more for a much lower return than the experts are getting. And worst of all, the training that you really need costs an awful lot of money. Which brings us to…
  • Training. Yup, that’s right, training is one of those things that changes completely once your business is doing well. First of all, because you can afford the training you need. But also because your success has given you first-hand experience and insight into what really works and what doesn’t, so you don’t need nearly as much training as you used to (and let’s face it, often the real lessons are the ones that the experts are applying, but not really teaching). Plus, if you really do want one of those high-priced training programs (which you can now afford), you can usually just ask, and you’ll get a copy for free, in hopes that you might promote it to your massive list. And speaking of your massive list…
  • Exposure. We’ve all heard that if your content is good enough, it’ll spread virally no matter how big your audience is – but we also know that it just isn’t true. Speaking from personal experience, I can say that my least impressive stuff today gets a lot more exposure than my most impressive stuff did a year ago – which means that if you’re just starting out, your stuff has to be ten times as good just for you to stand a chance. That’s partially because of that massive list of people who are engaged and invested in what you’re doing, and also because of relationships that you will have built, and the clout associated with your name…
  • Clout. Because yeah, relationships are great, and you should work hard to build them – but there will be times (at all stages of growth) when you need to reach out to a stranger for help. It’s unavoidable, and it’s just part of the game – I’ve reached out to strangers for help throughout my career, and lots of strangers have reached out to me, too. The thing is that the bigger your business has grown, the easier it is to get strangers to help you, because your name carries that much more clout. So not only do you automatically have that much more exposure than someone who’s just starting out, but if you want even *more* exposure, it’s that much easier to get it.

Now, before you start feeling too depressed, just remember that there’s a half-empty side to this glass…

Not All the Cards are Better, though…

Yes, that’s right – as great as it is to be running a successful business, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that a successful business doesn’t come with its own set of challenges.

Here are some of the things you can look forward to dealing with once you’ve made it to the big leagues:

  • Scale. The things you used to take for granted when you were just starting out can become very challenging when you scale them up by a couple of orders of magnitude. Case in point: my email marketing is very high on the engagement meter, and I answer every single one of my emails. This used to be easy, but now it means that on some days – especially when there’s a lot going on – I have to answer literally hundreds of emails. It feels like my job sometimes is to answer emails from all of my subscribers. I’m not complaining, but it’s definitely a challenge, and one that I’m still figuring out.
  • Management. When Peter and I started Mirasee, it was a side project for both of us. Since then, I hired Megan, Peter went on to do other things, it became my full-time occupation, and some new faces have recently been added to the team. Now, don’t get me wrong – my team is amazing, and I couldn’t do half the things that I do today without them – but it’s also a lot more WORK to manage a small team than it is to work on a side project with a friend!
  • Complexity. As things get bigger, they also become more complex. When we first started out, there was one site, one auto-responder series, one training program, and that’s it. Today, there are four sites, five auto-responder series, two books (with a third on the way), a manifesto, and three training programs – not to mention that we post a lot more often than we used to, run a complex content calendar that includes a lot of guest content, and feature semi-regular webinars and content from select partners. It’s all worth it, but comparatively speaking, the complexity can sometimes be dizzying.
  • Scrutiny. When you’re just starting out, you can make all the mistakes in the world, and none will be the wiser. When your business gets bigger, though, that all changes – everything you do is under a microscope, and if you slip up, people will see it, email you, complain, and unsubscribe. It can be pretty scary, and it can be pretty intense – but that’s your reality when you’ve grown past a certain point.

So… what am I saying with all this?

Am I saying that you should give up, because you’re unlikely to make it? Am I saying that even if you *do* make it, it might not even be worth it?

No, not at all.

It’s absolutely worth it, and you should NOT give up! Yes, there are obstacles that you’ll face – brick walls blocking the path to your dreams.

But the brick walls aren’t there to keep you out…

What the Brick Walls Are Really For…

(This might seem a bit off-topic, but bear with me for a few paragraphs, and you’ll see where I’m going.) 😉

There is a lecture series at Carnegie Mellon university called “The Last Lecture” – they invite great speakers to come and give their “last lecture” – basically, a talk about whatever they would like to share with the world.

One of the professors in that series was Randy Pausch, but Randy’s talk was different, because for him, it really *was* his last lecture; he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer the year prior, and died just over 10 months after the event.

The lecture was amazing; I’ve watched the recording it in its entirety (all one hour and sixteen minutes of it), and I’ve read the book at least half a dozen times, and each time I’ve been struck by a different nugget of wisdom, insight, and inspiration.

I’m mentioning all of this because I want to share with you a quote from the book – the quote that kept me going when things were looking the toughest:

“The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out; the brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. The brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They are there to stop the other people!”

I’m not saying that it won’t be hard, because it absolutely will be.

And I’m not saying that the deck isn’t stacked against you – because, let’s face it, it is.

What I am saying, though, is that if you really want it, then you have to believe in yourself, and believe you can make it happen.

The brick walls aren’t there to keep you out; they’re there to give you a chance to show you how much you want it, and to keep everyone *else* out who doesn’t want it badly enough.

Blind Optimism and Learning What Works

Is it blindly optimistic to believe that you can win when the deck is so unfairly stacked against you?

Yes, maybe it is.

But that’s fine, because what you’re after isn’t accuracy of belief – it’s success, and making a difference.

As they say: realists (which is how pessimists describe themselves) are more often right, but optimists are more often successful.

So whether it’s “realistic” or not, you should believe in your success, and keep working towards it.

But that doesn’t mean being blind – your odds of success will multiply if you go about it the smart way: watching what has (and hasn’t!) worked for others, and applying the lessons of their experience to your own business.

Do that, and work hard, and you’ll find that you keep getting further and further, even if the progress sometimes feels like it’s just one inch at a time.

And one day you’ll look back, and realize that the brick walls are all behind you. 🙂

81 thoughts on Why the Deck is (Unfairly) Stacked Against You When You Are Starting a New Business

Mauro D'Andrea

Thank you very much Danny!
This is one of the best post I’ve ever read (and one of the more honest too!).

I knew that pro-bloggers have a different deck to play with, but this doesn’t discourage me.
On the contrary it’s very motivating to me: if I keep going, I’ll play with that deck too 🙂

Ok, it will be hard, but in the life what is not hard?

I want to say a sincere thank you also for the webinar!
I signed up and I’ll be there.
Thanks Danny!


Thank you very much for the kind words, Mauro!

And yes, you’re exactly right – if you keep going and stick it out, then you’ll be playing with that same stacked deck, too. And like you said, all the good things in life (the ones that are really worthwhile) are hard.

I’m looking forward to seeing you on the webinar!

Nicole P.

Am I the only one that thought “Clout” was misspelled at first? X”D That’s what branding will do to ya.

Wow! I just read this again then watched that professor’s whole speach. I meant to watch just a bit of it but stayed for the whole thing. I wish my youngest son who is a genius with technology, an artist and musician could have taken his course. Oh well, the kid is a programmer, web developer, and game builder anyway. You probably use software and play games built by at least one of my boys.
The professor told me what’s wrong with me. I always had a sense of play and adventure which I’ve lost and need to get back to make this work for me.

Coach Comeback

Count me in! I have not been climbing over brick walls…


I want it bad! Nothing will get in the way of me and my vision! I actually feel sorry for the obstacles in my way!
Keep an eye out! Soon everyone will know the name

COACH COMEBCK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Awesome, James, keep on breaking those walls down to rubble! 😀

Coach Comeback

With your guidance I can do anything in this crazy online world.

From beginner to advanced you cover it all! Glad I found you Danny


Thanks, James! 🙂


What I find so difficult is managing the online and offline components of my business simultaneously. It’s so hard to prioritize! Nice to know I’m not alone in this journey 🙂


Nope, not alone by any stretch of the imagination, Jessica. I’m definitely here with you, and so are many others. 🙂


So true…starting out is extremely difficult, but the snake oil on the web is this kumbaya mentality that anyone can make it, let’s all hold hands, encourage each other, and of course buy my product that makes it so easy for anyone to succeed. Total BS.

A lot of hungry newbies look at one brick wall and no they can scale it or break through it. A lot of people get through one wall only to give up when they hit the second wall. There are so many obstacles you have to have the will to never give up. Not “never give up, sometimes.”

PJ Reece

Jacob… your comment speaks of the “the dip” in Seth Godin’s book called “The Dip”. The greatest secret of success.


Haven’t read it, PJ, but I’ll be sure to check it out!

PJ Reece

“Brick walls are there for a reason.” Danny… yes, yes, yes… you’ve revealed a key that I, too, discovered while writing screenplays in the 90s. The wall is our best friend. It actually makes our success possible. This should be the lesson in any writing course. Thanks for highlighting this glorious (and not at all depressing) fact.


Absolutely, PJ – and thanks for the mention in your blog post, too – I thought it was great! 🙂

Kimberly Houston

(I’m starting to feel a little like a stalker — I’ve felt compelled to comment on every FPM post I’ve read here in the last few days!)

You’re right, this is a very important message to share. I think far too many people don’t have a realistic understanding of what’s really required to “make it,” and as you mention, the additional complications that show up once you get to business success.

Love, love, love the quote you shared from Randy Pausch — that’s one to write down on a notecard and look at everytime feelings of defeat start to creep in!

I’m looking forward to the training next week. I just came to the end of a large-ish client project and I have some time in my sked for quality instruction, so this comes at a perfect time! : )


That’s amazing, Kimberly, I’m so glad to hear that – and please keep on commenting! 🙂

Yeah, a lot of people try to encourage those who are just starting out by making it sound as if it’s so easy to get to where they want to go, but I really think that just does them a disservice, by setting them up to fail.

There’s nothing wrong with something being hard, or taking time – that’s the case for all the good things in life, and they’re still worth it.

And that sounds like perfect timing with the wrap-up of your large-ish client project – I’m looking forward to seeing you on the training!

Sandy Richardson

Hi Danny: this is a great post! It is sobering in it’s naked truth and though some of the ideas could be disheartening to hear, I find it refreshing to hear someone telling it like it is. I’ve been in business for over a decade and feel the ground shifting right now. New brick walls to scale or get around requiring a mix of old and new strategies to succeed. I’m tired of the hype from people – saying it’s easy and what’s wrong with you for not being successful. While success is absolutely possible, it takes commitment, hard work, perseverance, and creativity. Also, some inside secrets from those who are willing to share doesn’t hurt either! Looking forward to hearing more from you at the teleseminar next week! Sandy


That’s very insightful, Sandy – things really are changing right now, and I’d be lying if I said I knew exactly what those things are, or what they’re changing into.

The only thing I do know, though, is that it isn’t always easy – but that’s no reason not to go for it anyways. 🙂

See you on next week’s call,

Carol Tice | Make a Living Writing

Hi Danny — I’m really relating to some of the growing-pains part of this post! I too want to answer everyone…and everyone keeps telling me to get an admin and outsource stuff…but who could I trust to touch my loyal members and subscribers? And yet it’s crazy to be doing it all myself as it gets bigger and bigger. Wrestling with some of these same issues and also still not knowing what the answer is!

In my membership community, response from me is basically what I’m selling. Trying to concentrate more on whatever back-end things that don’t directly affect members I can get help with for now.


I hear you, Carol – I’m in the same boat, and having a devil of a time figuring it out. And I think I’m luckier than most in that regard, because I have Megan and the rest of the team, who are excellent, and I do trust them with our wonderful audience here at Firepole Marketing.

But even so, finding the right balances isn’t easy – I’ll share with you whatever insights I find as I figure it out myself – would you do the same? 😉

Jarom Adair

It’s safe to say that if I knew how much work business would be before I started, I might not have started at all. 🙂


Haha, true dat – and probably for a lot of people. But honestly, it really *is* worth it. 🙂

Jarom Adair

Worth it? Absolutely. Pushing through anything this difficult comes with huge benefits.


Wow another brutally honest and laid bare post from Danny. Rare to find out there in Internet land. Keep these wonderful posts coming as it is refreshing to read the truth. And how on earth do you possibly keep up wiith all your emails ??? Amazing stuff Danny. Alison

Brett Pierce

In my opinion, this is the most important thing you’ve written since I’ve been following you Danny. And that’s pretty impressive because you publish so much useful information. Amazing insight and inspiration in this piece. Thank you for posting this today- it was very impactful. I can’t wait for the webinar next week!


Thank you, Brett – I really appreciate that, especially coming from you!

I’m looking forward to seeing you on the call next week!

Rose Smith

Hi Danny–It’s awesome you mentioned Randy Pausch and his sad yet inspiring journey. His story was so uplifting, I wrote about it. His story is a must-read whenever anyone thinks the dream she is going after is too hard or just not worth it. As Pausch put it so well–”it’s not the cards we’re dealt, it’s how we play the hand. I’m looking forward to improving my hand with your upcoming seminar.

Take care,


I absolutely agree, Rose, and Randy is really a hero of mine – I think his book is one of those few that should be read and re-read at least once per year.

And I love that quote: “It’s not the cards we’re dealt, it’s how we play the hand.”

So true.

I’m looking forward to seeing you on the training next week!

David Tong

Growing pains are painful to many… It’s so important to have guidance and to persevere beyond the initial phase to move forward.


So true, David. 🙂

Will you be on the call next week?

David Tong

Yup, signed up to the 10AM one due to time zone…. I still owe you an email, but I wanna make sure it went through proper FPM input before asking 😀




J. Delancy

The words of “Iron” Mike Tyson, “Everyone’s got a plan until they get hit.”
What separates the Snake Oil Salesmen of the internet from the superstars? The salesmen are trying to sell you the idea that you don’t have to hit a brick wall, and you don’t have to take some blows to be the champion.
I’ve paid for courses from Ramit Sethi, Jon Morrow, and bought products from Carol Tice and James Clear (sorry Danny) and in different ways they all say the same thing, “You’ll have to take blows, hit walls, reach out and try hard before you get to the top”.

Thanks for the post.


Hey J, those are wise words, and no need to apologize – I have nothing but respect for the people that you mentioned (I consider Jon Morrow a personal mentor), so you’re in very good hands! 🙂

Sophie Lizard

Wow, and I thought an hour a day to answer emails from my subscribers was a lot! I guess I’ve got more growing pains to come. 🙂

Thanks so much for this post, Danny – you’ve given me helpful pointers about some of the most important things I have to prepare for, and I promise the wall will not keep me out! I’m really looking forward to hearing all the details on Tuesday.


Oh yeah, at the rate things are going for you, you’ve got a *lot* more growing pains to come – but as they say, “let these be our problems”. 😉

Piers | Kickstarters'HQ

Would love to come, but you’ve used the only major webinar company that locks out Linux users (and had pretty sketchy support for Mac’s, too until pretty recently). Usually, most people either use someone like WebEx or provide the recording from GoToMeeting (which is cross platform).

Yes, I could go borrow someone’s laptop, but honestly, I’m tired of dealing with the only site on the net that doesn’t want my business.


I’m sorry to hear that, Piers. I’ve heard that GoToWebinar can be restrictive, but being a PC user myself, I haven’t really felt it personally. Maybe we’ll be able to find a better system to use in the future – but for this one, I hope you’ll find a way to attend. 🙂

Hana Guenzl

Hi Danny,

A super post and I’ve enjoyed reading it. Sharing it on all my social media distribution channels.

Working hard in business is the old cliche -all of us need to open our mind and learn to work smart. My motto is by Walter Gropius – “The human mind is like an umbrella – it functions the best when open.”
It’s the way to go – and you Danny offer it through your educational webinars. Even though I run Branding Master Classes I’ll learn from experts like you new concepts and techniques and that’s why II’m getting up at 6am because of Sydney time zone to watch your webinar.

Cheers from sunny Down Under. Hana Guenzl


Thanks for sharing, Hana!

I love that quote, and I’m going to use it: “The human mind is like an umbrella – it functions best when open.” – Beautiful!

And I’m honored that you’d get up at 6am for the call – I’ll do everything I can to meet and exceed your expectations! 🙂

Hana Guenzl

Hi Danny,

Thank you for your comment and I am glad you like the quote I use it on my Master Classes website and also on it’s facebook page. Go a head and use it too.

Look forward to the webinar and have an awesome weekend. Smiles from Sydney.


Hi Danny,

Know exactly what you mean about brick walls. I seem to overcome one and another appears. In today’s IM climate, this seems endless. I am currently going through an old site of mine and I have noticed over 50% of outgoing links were going to sites that no longer exist, Some of these sites may have been garbage, but I know for certain that some were not. Sometimes brick walls are just there to tell us to change direction, not to keep banging our head against.



Yup, that’s the nature of the game – you bust through a brick wall, and then it’s smooth sailing for about a minute and a half, until you hit the next one.

And you’re right – the abandonment rate of new blogs is alarmingly high – I did a similar cleaning of Firepole Marketing links lately, and had to get rid of thousands of them.

Not everyone quits, though, and the ones that stick it past the “dip” that PJ Reece mentioned earlier are the ones who eventually make it. I’m glad to see that you’re one of those! 🙂

Steve Hughes

Hey Danny,

Looking forward to the Webinar on Tuesday. Always looking to gain valuable knowledge from someone that made it to the other side. Have a nice evening.


Awesome, Steve, I’m looking forward to seeing you there! 🙂

Anca Dumitru

The naked truth, Danny! Thank you for stressing out that giving up isn’t an option.

Frankly, I was a bit wary when I read your warning. But then I thought of your blog posts and webinars. I learned that you’re an extremely driven and positive guy. Every new venture requires time, work, perseverance and commitment. I started freelancing nearly two years ago, so not exactly a newbie. Have I made mistakes? I’d be a liar if I said no. It may take me a while longer to get where I want to be, but at least I know the past couple of years haven’t been in vain.

I’m glad I came across FPM, Jon Morrow, Carol Tice and many other no-nonsense people I’m trying to learn from as much as I can every day. So, thanks again for sharing this post and looking forward to the webinar!


Thank you very much for the kind words, Anca!

Yep, giving up isn’t an option – not if you want to get anywhere interesting, at least. And yeah, that’s all it is – every new venture takes time, work, perseverance, and commitment, and that’s really all we’re talking about here.

The past couple of years have definitely not been in vain – I’ve made a lot of mistakes too, as you’ll learn on the training!

Looking forward to seeing you there in a bit,


THANK YOU for this!

I’ve read quite a few case studies over the past year, and I’ve often noticed that:

– The “my very first product made $12,000!” people just happened to have a huge mailing list built up over 3 years of blogging before they launched anything

– The “I made 6 figures in my site’s first week” people just happened to have invested thousands of dollars in their site’s promotion before the big launch

– The “I just put up a sales page and customers started coming in” people all happened to have done this 5 years ago when the internet was less crowded.

That’s why I liked “Engagement from Scratch” so much, because it doesn’t assume you’ve started with any time, traffic, or money advantage whatsoever.

As someone who’s spending half-time at my regular job and half-time on my business, I’m just barely starting to reap the benefits of the “time” aspect… however, I’ve also noticed that the people who are the most engaged in the trenches of business building also have the least time to comment on blogs. I believe this is the first comment I’ve left in months… this post was so great it brought me out of the woodwork to respond to it 🙂

Here’s another major truth, though – momentum DOES start to build.

I’m 9 months in and up until this month, I had to scrape and scramble for traffic. Felt like I had to promote/post/comment a LOT just to get a few visitors. Now traffic does seem to come in “magically” without much active promotion – I credit this to three things:
– Rising search engine ranks
– Prominent share buttons on posts, which are being utilized
– Tweetily plugin (tweets my old posts to keep them fresh and drive Twitter traffic)

Nowadays I’m scraping and scrambling for customers. It’s mind-boggling to me how I can have 10,000 visitors a month and only 20 hard-won sales. However, my experience with the traffic momentum gives me hope that perhaps 9 months from now, the sales will be rolling in too!


Thank you for sharing this, Shayna – and I’m honored that this is the post that brought you out of the woodwork!

And you’re absolutely right, momentum DOES start to build, and once you get over that first hump, things start to snowball, and really do get easier and easier.

Don’t worry about the next hump – you’ll have to scramble to get over it, but once you do, things get easier on that front, too. 🙂

P.S. Thanks for the tip about Tweetily – I’ll have to look into that!

Adeline Yuboco

Thanks so much for sharing this, Danny!

So far, I’ve been spending quite a lot of time on webinars and training programs to learn as much as I can when it comes to marketing. Your webinars are definitely on the top of my list, even if it happens in a rather odd hour where I’m from. Guess that’s pretty much my brick wall. But then again, like how you put it here, if you really want it so much, no brick wall will stop you.

Danny @ Firepole Marketing

Hey Adeline, thank you so much for the kind words, I really appreciate it! Were you able to catch one of the webinars? 🙂


Wow what an inspirational post.

Almost all of your points accurately describe how I feel about starting my recent site.

Looking at the brick walls from your perspective really does give me hope that I can succeed where others have failed.

Thanks for the inspiration.

Amanda Prior

Anyone just starting out should realise that there are going to be hurdles to jump and that they won’t be able to compete with the big boys from day one. But the fact that the likes of Frank Kern, John Chow and Yaro Starak have been big players for years hasn’t prevented you from succeeding Danny, and your success doesn’t mean there’s no room left for others to succeed. And that’s exactly what should inspire people to start and keep going.

Success is due to a number of factors, but I believe that two of those are the expectations you set and how you navigate the course. If you plan how you intend to achieve your goal, you’ll identify what your hurdles are before you reach them. Knowing that they’re ahead, you’ll be able to prepare yourself to clear them before you hit them. And you may even find that by the time you thought you’d be hitting them, they’ve disappeared.

Of course there’s always going to be the unexpected you have to deal with, and yes some things are harder than others. But that’s true in any walk of life. If you really hit a brick wall, stop trying to jump it, take a step back and find a different solution. Lower it by breaking it into smaller chunks, or try another approach and go round it instead. If you’re like me you probably know people who are successful but who you think don’t work particularly hard. And you’re probably right. They don’t. They just work smart.

Zeus Yiamouyiannis, Ph.D.

Yes and no. The brick wall is there mainly to inform you, as to the nature and magnitude of your task. Online business is not for everyone, and maybe not even for me, but I am learning well, I am good at spotting the promising gains, and I do not give up easily. However, over time if I am spending the lion’s share of my time busting through walls and not enough time producing value and engaging in fulfilling work, then I shall periodically reconsider and reallot my efforts.

It is the same with computer programs or information products. How much time and effort does it take to learn these and use them vs. how much effort and money do they take? Often the answer is not to “fight through” the brick wall, but to realize something is not working and will not work for you.

This doesn’t mean give up, but it may mean “look elsewhere”. I have asked for refunds on information products that simply give me formulas that work for someone else. I need something that will work for me and to learn from someone who has successful CLIENTS (I really don’t care about a marketer’s success if it doesn’t translate.)

So that is the question, “Am I to fight on or move on?”. It is not an easy question to answer. I look at direction. Am I expending more effort for weaker results, or (after an initial investment period) am a getting increased results from diligent effort that starts to create its own momentum?


Allow me to summarize the article:

1. The experts say the playing field is level. In fact the playing field is not level, because popular blogs/businesses find it easier to attract attention, and once your blog/business is popular you can focus on it full-time, etc. etc.. So it’s harder when you’re just starting out.

2. The experts say that with “a bit of hard work and elbow grease”, you can make it to the big leagues. This is false. Except, wait, this part is actually *true*, because it’s exactly what Danny did with Firepole Marketing. He started from zero, worked hard, and joined the big leagues.

3. Here’s how to join the big leagues: First, don’t give up. (aka “push through the brick wall”). Second, work hard. Third, watch what has (and hasn’t) worked for others, and apply the lessons of their experience to your own business.

Well…yeah. Of course.

Sorry, but there’s really nothing in this article that I didn’t already know.


I’m glad to hear that this is familiar to you, SonicSuns – so where can we see the successes that you’ve achieved implementing your knowledge?


Ah, I never claimed to be successful. Nor do I claim to know as much as you (I surely don’t).

All I meant was that this *particular* post was uninformative. (At least for me personally.) It tells me to look for what works (and doesn’t work), but it doesn’t tell me what specific techniques work (and don’t work).

Though on second thought you did mention “respond to every email”, so that’s one exception. But I’ve heard that before, too. And it’s something I already do.


I understand, and I didn’t intend to sound snarky – sorry if it came off that way.

What I was trying to point out is that a lot of people think they know these things, but they aren’t really applying it. In the words of Stephen Covey: “To know and not to do is really not to know.”

The truth is that there aren’t any magic or secret tricks – it’s the search for those things that distracts people from what they should really be doing.

Jane Robinson

Loved the brick wall analogy. I am quickly getting tired of the gurus who are teaching all the same ol stuff and hound me to “buy” their next wonder course but this article was worth the read. I appreciate your straight forward approach and tell it like it is. As a visual artist I have broken down many brick walls (more to come) because many artists reach the wall and give up. I am taking this same route to my business. Thanks for a great post.

Niveen Salem

Danny, Thanks for the insight of this article and being straight forward with it! I figured out the brick wall idea just recently in my business (which is very competitive too!). And to Jane, I relate to what you’re saying as I was on many guru’s marketing sales funnels myself until I decided to create my own which is the project I’m working on and I figured THAT is how to face the brick wall and swim to the other side of the river.

Yet, no one tells you this piece of information when you start! After all, it’s to their benefit to be on the brick wall side.

The only thing Danny about watching what gurus do and don’t do to learn is that each one of them succeeded in a different way! So it really makes it hard to follow. I tried to apply each one’s method for the past couple of years but it was too hard to do. I then decided to have my own (which I’m still working on along with my sales marketing funnel).

I look forward to the webinar! Thanks again ~ Niveen


Hi Danny, I’ve been blogging for 11 months. I’ve had e a motto from since before Day 1: Plan Well, Start Small, Think BIG!

I don’t see any brick walls – I see opportunity and a learning curve. I don’t feel as if the odds are stacked against me at all. I think, “I’m going to give this my best shot – it won’t happen overnight, but I believe I can have, at least, some moderate success – as long as I put in the effort, but also discriminate and only learn from the people who think like me and have a business model (and ethic) that I admire.

I don’t see online success as a competition, or of ‘us’ versus ‘them’. I know it will get easier when I get more successful, that is obvious – so I work at becoming more successful – simple.

No brick walls. No ‘It’s not fair’. Just find your own way by learning from successful others – take on-board what feels ‘right’ for me….and just DO IT. Success will come.


Hi Danny, as a “newbie” with a full time job and desire to share my voice with others your post was refreshing. It took me a few months to realize that most people have not “started from scratch” as I am doing.

Everyone has a different story and maybe I was searching for something that was not even there. I was looking for someone I could relate to. I really enjoyed your honesty. I feel like I am in a point in my life where I have been faced with a lot of obstacles some of which I created but was able to overcome. As mentioned in a lot of these posts it seems like so many have done the same.

I signed up for your webinar but will be at work so I hope I will be able to attend. I’m looking forward to it.

Andy Black

The walls in front of us are the barriers to entry once we get over them. The higher they are the greener the grass will be.

Problems are just stepping stones with a different name…

Pat Wooldridge

I can’t be discouraged about this post because, Danny, you’re telling it right. I am no authority on internet marketing and creating an audience. I’m the newest of the new. But of all the advice and commentary about this that I’ve read in the past, you are the one who, with the first post of yours that I read, came across as absolutely real. Today’s post gives many more details of the upside and the downside the Deck Of Cards. I’m so glad to be learning so much about the downside. Forewarned is forearmed. I, too, have seen Randy Pausch’s talk. Didn’t he lead by example, right to the end of his life. Talk about brick walls! What a way he had, of turning a brick wall into a motivator. So, no discouragement here. I’m such a slow starter in some ways, and seem to use a lot of energy getting things in place without saying a lot about it, but when things are in a row and set to go, watch out. Silence can mean determination, not discouragement. Your Webinar is going to be amazing and I’m so looking forward to it!


Best educational post I’ve read Danny. I’m a new reader, I arrived here via Matthew Kimberly, and I’m so glad I did. I’ve been feeling tired from climbing over my barriers lately, but your post has given me a shot of enthusiasm. Thank you.

Kent Sanders

Danny, thanks so much for how you help people. I was just introduced to you and your material a few months ago but have really enjoyed it. It’s a real motivation and encouragement. Most of all, I appreciate that you are really transparent and a “real” person.

Sheryl Kurland

I built one business already before the internet and social media became all consuming. It’s amazing how much the world has changed in the past five years. Looking forward to the Tuesday program. (One irk, meant with all good intention: I noticed the above article is dated Sept. 12. 2012. The comments show from then and now. It looks like you’re trying to stack the deck or something by recycling. Maybe it’s just me…..)

Jessica Burde


Thank you for this. It isn’t discouraging, it’s refreshing. Anyone with a brain knows that those of us starting out have the deck stacked against us – as the old saying goes, if the game were easy than anyone could play.

I don’t mind working hard and overcoming that stacked deck to reach success, But I do get rather tired of ‘experts’ who pretend the deck doesn’t exist. You know what, it’s great when people recommend webhosting and sites solutions that make me drool, but when we’re just scraping by and what someone is recommending is equal to half my rent, “If you want it enough you’ll find the money”… doesn’t quite convince me the expert in question knows what they are talking about.

It’s great to see someone saying it openly – the deck is stacked, and we need to work our asses off to reach where you are. but you worked your ass to GET where you are, so it’s not actually unfair (whatever ‘fair’ actually means – usually it seems to mean “You’re/ The world is being mean to me!”) but just doing what the established folks do is not going to get me to their level.


*awesome* *awesome* *awesome* post Danny… just watched the last Randy Pausch lecture after previously not ever having heard of him and WOW. Between that, this post and you’re upcoming webinar I have a lot of key information to think about…I really do appreciate your genuineness dude. =]

Robert Connor

Great post and nice site Danny. We are looking forward to learning more from you and your team. Hope you do not mind me sharing information on your site with our contacts at IBO. Have a great day on purpose!


Great post! It was totally worth the time it took to read, thank you for the warnings at the top though. Made me laugh. I’m looking forward to the webinar on Tuesday too!


It’s quitye impressive to hear that you came a successor after a hard working time i’m on the same way.

Sarah Kohl

Now that really wasn’t so scary. Of course the world is unfair. What are we going to do about it?
Me….I’m going to get to work, evaluate, and adjust as needed. Oh yes, I am going to get some professional advisors too (to compliment my area of expertise)
See you on the seminar!


Thanks for this. It all sounds like very useful information that I might be able to profit from later. But none of it applies to me now because I don’t even have a business. I’m actually. (Since I don’t have a business and anyone is wondering how I got here, it was through another channel that I assumed was for those wanting to get published.) Nevertheless keep on keepin’ on.


Hmm. Don’t know how that happened. My previous comment has a clipped sentence. Where it says “I’m actually.” it should say “I’m actually a writer.” (Obviously not good at proofreading my stuff, however.) Hope this didn’t cause any head scratching. Thanks.

Andrea Martins

I love, love, loved the quote about the brick walls!

“The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out; the brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. The brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They are there to stop the other people!”

Chris King

Danny, I loved the whole article. I have been involved with the Internet since 2000. Yes, many ups and downs, along with brick walls. It is so refreshing to find someone like you who is honest and tells it as it is. I have enjoyed the comments and your replies.
Keep up your great work! And, yes, I am looking forward to Tuesday.


I LOVE this post.
Also, it reminds me of the “marketing flywheel” that Rand Fishkin talks about. But that’s just marketing, not the whole running of the business. It’s nice to be reminded of the challenges that come with a successful company. Thank you.

Brick walls here I come.

Terence Verma

Yeh..your gr8 post makes me think of ‘working smarter’… Building doors thru the brick walls!!


I loved this post Danny and one I needed at this exact moment in my business. I started out one year ago in Facebook marketing and constantly feel like I’m up against the big dogs. I’m launching my first online training FB Real Estate Pro on May 19 and hope I learn more from you on the best way to tear down brick walls and make it a success!!

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