Don’t Read the Instruction Manual: It’s Time to Improvise

Don’t Read the Instruction Manual: It’s Time to Improvise

As a young girl in a Mormon family, I was encouraged to learn things that would develop me into the perfect wife and homemaker.

How to make jam. How to sew. How to play with barbies. You know, girly things.

And there were always lots of instructions for these things. A recipe. A pattern. Even a formula for making the bed (hospital corners, yo!).

I learned very early that someone else before me had figured out the finer points of these tasks. And that if I wanted to be successful, I should follow their lead. No questions asked.

At school, it wasn’t much different.

Memorize these formulas to figure out the area of a triangle. Memorize these rules to construct perfect sentences. Even in art class, we were given assignments to copy other pictures. Doing your own thing just wasn’t…productive.

In fact, in high school I became so adept at copying pictures, that my friends would ask me to draw their portraits — they just handed over a photo of themselves and a few days later…ta da! Bob’s your uncle. A perfect pencil rendition of someone’s smiling face got passed around and admired.

Evidence that this skill — to see something and copy it in full detail — made me an artist.

And I was proud.

A few years later (when I was 22), along came my son.

Sean Leighton Parker, 3 months

He defied every bit of experience I had with kids (remember, I was the oldest of six, and had a solid resume as a babysitter).

He refused to follow instructions. In fact, if you wanted him to do anything, you had to work really hard to make him think it was HIS idea. He wouldn’t eat a vegetable. Or anything with texture. He wouldn’t sleep through the night until he was six. And he definitely had his own ideas about what clothes he should be wearing to kindergarten. I could NOT buy him anything to wear unless he’d picked it out himself.

And Spanking? Forget about it. THAT made things worse. In fact, any sort of punishment seemed to just fan the flames of his rebellion.

This child? There was no magic formula on the planet that could help me make him behave like a proper gentleman.

My sister — who majored in early childhood development — was powerless to provide a method that worked.

We even consulted professional psychologists (at the request of the school who felt he lacked the ability to focus or follow directions).

And you know what? Nobody had any answers.

But it didn’t matter. That kid turned out just fine.

Fantastic, in fact. (And without medication!)

Self-portrait, Sean Leyton Parker

He found his place in the world. As an artist

And he’s the kindest, most generous and loving young man I know. (As long as you don’t try to make him do something he doesn’t want to do.)

The thing he taught me? That rocking the boat is a valid life choice.

Doing Things Differently is How We Get There

My own breakthrough came when I went back to school at the ripe old age of 27.

A divorced mother who needed to make herself more attractive to employers, I just knew a Bachelor’s Degree would help.

In my second year, I enrolled in Introduction to Painting. It was something I’d always wanted to learn how to do.

Flabbergasted doesn’t even come close to the anxiety and frustration I felt when I realized that my drawing skills would NEVER translate to the canvas.

Every paintbrush seemed to have a mind of its own.

And since I didn’t have the patience (or the time) to figure this out, I had to just wing it.

Twelve weeks later, I was loving every minute. Instead of trying to capture the exact shade of gray for a shadow, I made it purple instead.My skies? Those depended on my mood. Sometimes green. Sometimes blue. Sometimes pink.

My inner Picasso made love to my inner Frida Kahlo and they cranked out some crazy-ass babies.

I found that when I let go of expectations, totally wild stuff could happen.

Central Coast LightHouse (C) Tea Silvestre

Fast forward 15 years and you’ll find someone who loves to cook, but refuses to follow a recipe. (This irks my grandmother who once shared her carrot cake recipe with me only to find I’d added a few extra ingredients. “Yes, it’s tasty. But it’s not my carrot cake.”)

I’m someone who loves to read, but is allergic to instruction manuals. (This one REALLY pisses off Mr. Perfect who thinks that if I’d just read the darn thing, I’d know how to operate my iPhone).

And I’m someone who loves to teach, but can’t stomach the thought of handing out templates, blueprints or formulas.

Yes, I’m now fully in touch with my inner rebel.

It’s Time to Teach People to Think For Themselves

I call on my fellow instructors, coaches and consultants:

Let’s help our customers develop critical thinking skills. Our world needs us to encourage their creativity, not their skills for filling out forms.

And for the love of all that’s holy, can we stop promising them an easy six-step path to a six-figure lifestyle?

Can we — instead — teach them how to create something new and different?

Let’s teach them how to improvise. How to deviate from the recipe. How to add their own flavor and flair to what’s already there.

I don’t want to live in world where everyone turns off their brain and follows the next guy. Do you?

Where We Might Start

We’ve got to begin somewhere, so let’s take the first step with our words.

There’s a popular belief that the Inuit language has hundreds of ways to talk about “snow.” While that’s not entirely true, it does point to something I think we need to get a better handle on: how we talk about business.

If you’ve been online for any length of time, you’re already familiar with phrases like “6-figure Blueprint” or “High-traffic Formula.”

It sometimes seems like we’ve lost our ability to pick a different set of words.

This kind of verbiage does nothing to create new ideas or new value for the economy. It just perpetuates copy-cat methods of doing business.

In fact, it breeds the idea that we can make money (and loads of it) by doing exactly what others have done, exactly how they’ve done it.

The truth is that this kind of thinking — and way of doing business — is a hot load of crap.

It’s what Tara Gentile refers to as “rent-seeking,” and it does nothing for our collective good.

Let’s stop using words that preserve the status quo

Chef holding whisk and rolling pin

Are you ready to take a stand against over-used words and copy-cat marketing?

The way we use language both affects and reflects our view of the world. Words are powerful things.

Let’s take some responsibility for our part in all this and help our clients see that their creativity, imagination and originality are more important than their ability to passively follow directions.

Let’s quit promising them easy answers and fill-in-the-blank templates for their businesses. Yes, these can be helpful for some of the more mundane tasks. But they shouldn’t be the headline on a sales page.

Let’s move away from overused and worn out words like “blueprint,” “recipe” and “formula.” Yes, we need these kinds of things on occasion when precision counts — like baking or building a skyscraper — but these won’t work when you can’t control all the variables (like the kind that exist in a real, live business).

We’re marketers, dammit! We should be able to find more interesting ways to talk about how we help our customers.

It’s a vicious circle and I’m hoping we can stop it…with the help of our clients and with each other.

As a small business owner, are you willing to stop looking for easy answers and four-hour work weeks? Can you pledge to think critically about any and all classes you sign up for? Or coaches you hire?

Who’s with me on this? Are you ready to create a business that means something?

Share your thoughts in a comment below and let’s do this!

  • Nick Armstrong

    Yes, yes, a million times yes.

    I woke up -really- cranky this morning; the general lack of critical thinking abilities in society today makes me want to walk around with sharpies and just give big red X’s to things and people that are “just following the rules”.

    It shouldn’t be my job to babysit someone else while they do theirs – even as a coach or consultant, you have to be somewhat removed from what your clients are doing (if they can’t think for themselves, solve some problems on their own, you’ll be stuck giving them the Kindergarten-level lessons when they SHOULD be doing much more with your help).

    This should be printed out and nailed to the doors of every freelancer in town. I’ll get started today.

    • Tea Silvestre, aka Word Chef

      Okay, now I’ve got this visual of you with a gigantic red sharpie. Which could be a good thing…thanks for the vote of support, Nick. Let’s see who else we can get to say, “Yes!”

      • Sandi Amorim

        I’m a YES too and think you must climb up and shout this from the rooftop! I have nothing against making 6 figures, but as soon as I see that phrase I tune out. Too many false promises made, and sadly not always by hucksters.

        And I so appreciate the call to come up with new language. I know authentic is a word also overused on the internet, but I long for some wording that feels REAL and human. We are not automatons or clones. Let’s get back to humanity and making a difference – yes, even in marketing!

        • Tea Silvestre, aka Word Chef

          I think we need to start a list of over-used and tired words. And then go on a mission to make up new ones. So glad to have you on board with this revolution, Sandi!

          • BirdyD – Roving Robin Reporter

            I’m SOOOO with you on the new language and the taking-back of other language. :>

            It’s time! :-) :>

  • Annie Sisk

    You’ve been reading my mind. Or email. Or diary. Or something. I’ve been working on a rant – longhand writing it out in my notebook, actually, which I NEVER do – inspired by my violent emotional reaction to some of the crap you’re talking about in this post. (Reaction *against* is more accurate.) And NONE of them tell you the REAL reason they got that high traffic and that six-figure income (that their friends with bigger audiences promoted the hell out of them). It’s enough to make you wanna throw your hands up and quit.

    Or turn around and start a revolution. Heh heh heh …

    • Tea Silvestre, aka Word Chef

      Oh, Annie. My revolutionary sister…we MUST take all this energy and put it to good use. I refuse to throw in the towel just yet. WE can light the fire of this thing and make a difference, I know it.

    • Zeus Yiamouyiannis, Ph.D.

      There is a revolution brewing all right. It’s about a world emerging where creative people who accept and rejoice in their unique genius find and share ways to express it and connect it. It will absolutely run over this formulaic nonsense. Viva la revolution!

  • Melanie Kissell

    Bravo! Applause!! Applause!!!

    Tea, you’ve just answered a GIGANTIC question … a proverbial burning question … of mine that’s been sitting in limbo in my brain for years! You may not know it or feel it, but you’re a saving grace. :)

    In every instance when I’ve forked out hard-earned dough for a business-building product or program, I can’t seem to get past the preamble of the doggone things. I never do anything with that stuff. All of it sits on my hard drive growing moss … and increasing the reading on my guilt meter.

    Now I know why! Other people’s instructions don’t work for me. In some cases, they don’t even make any sense to me. They’re not cozy or comfortable. They don’t fit my style of thinking or how I like to tackle tasks. It’s as if I’m trying to fit into someone else’s size 5 Calvin Kline jeans. Ain’t gonna happen!

    Thank you for this fabbytastic share-worthy post and for being YOU. Your message resonates with me big time. :)

    • Tea Silvestre, aka Word Chef

      I’m so glad I could make a contribution to your peace of mind, Melanie. Nobody should ever feel like they’re wrong just because they can’t get things to work the same way as someone else. It IS like trying to wear a size 5 pair of jeans…and when you’re a big girl like me, that’s damn near impossible.

  • Leanne Hoagland-Smith

    Funny I wrote about this today from a little different perspective in that there is always more than one right answer.

  • Donna Leyens

    Tea, this really resonates with me on a lot of levels. Besides business, I think about my two kids, who also don’t fit into the typical kid mold. My daughter wants to be an artist, but doesn’t want to go to art school. She says that if she goes to art school, then they (the teachers) will just make her do her art the way they want her to, and it will look like everyone else’s. I’m thinking you could relate to that.
    The pressure to be like everyone else is huge in our society, and it’s easy to look at someone who has achieved what you want to achieve, and believe that they can teach you to be like them. It’s much more challenging to find your own unique path. And while I do believe that we can learn a lot from the success and failures of others, ultimately, we all have to bring who we are to the mix and make that work for us. It’s a good lesson to remember, as a business owner and as a coach!
    And by the way, I’m all for some new words! I’ve become very close with my Thesaurus, but I hate to say I’m often disappointed in what it has to offer.

    • Tea Silvestre, aka Word Chef

      Where kids are involved it’s always hard to know which path is best. My son is currently attending Art Center at Pasadena (which has a hefty price tag). He’s in his 3rd year there and still loving it. I don’t think the students there have to worry about their creativity being crushed by sameness — but the tuition is crazy. (He’s paying for this one himself after spending 3 years at a regular university.) A little guidance and mentoring can be extremely helpful. If we’ve developed the ability to think critically and ask the right questions, we should be able to avoid the traps of “fitting in” and doing things “right.” I think this will ultimately come down to a revolution in how we teach our children. Only then will things really change.

  • Sheryl Schuff


    Absolutely, positively, I’m in this revolution with

    I’ve got some experience … college kid of the 60’s fighting
    academic rules that made no sense…entrepreneur since the 70’s as soon as I
    figured out that I couldn’t stomach corporate politics or compromise my values
    to get ahead…home-schooling mom of the 80’s because I was determined to teach
    my kids how to think, not what to think…

    So, yes, let’s “help our clients see that their creativity,
    imagination and originality are more important than their ability to passively
    follow directions.”

    Let us choose our words very carefully.

    • Tea Silvestre, aka Word Chef

      Woot! Thanks for chiming in, Sheryl. Glad to have you on board. It’s gonna take a lot of us to keep reminding each other, me thinks.

  • Harleena Singh

    Loved the post Tea!

    Although I am not a marketer but I was lost in your story that you shared above. I guess you surely have come a long way, and I am sure it must not have been easy too. :)

    And yes, that was a cute picture of your son. Mostly it’s noticed that troublesome kids turn out to be wonderful kids later. :)

    Thanks for sharing more about yourself with all of us. :)

  • Megan Everett

    I love this post for so many reasons, Tea! Much of what I do is to
    build systems and document and train people to use technology and
    processes, but that’s supposed to be only laying the foundation by
    understanding the fundamentals and the tools that allow us all to then
    serve and solve and express what we are called to do with true
    creativity and authenticity, and to facilitate collaboration and
    community. I get frustrated when we get mired in the paint-by-numbers
    part and it feels like the effort is stopping-up or derailing the energy
    of the original mission. You’ve inspired me to do a much better job of asking clients how doing X
    will impact what time, energy and resources are available to do Y, F,
    and P. I have done so in the past, but very gently. Because they don’t
    give me enough information to make recommendations, even when I ask for
    it, I assume they will not appreciate my looking beyond what they hired
    me to do. But some may actually be counting on me to tell them “how much
    is enough,” not realizing that there is no one right answer to that
    question. It’s always relative, and can only be their decision as the
    business owner, but some might appreciate a discussion of the choices,
    the trade-offs, and the consequences. Doing a better job in the
    beginning of clarifying whether they want me talking to them about our
    efforts in the context of their larger goals, and letting them know what
    information we’ll have to share in order for me to successfully make
    those kinds of evaluations, will help me find those clients who truly
    value what I want to offer, and that is exciting :)

    • Tea Silvestre, aka Word Chef

      We’ve all learned from a young age that’s it’s better to follow the rules. And I think our best chance for success, Megan, is to keep telling our students that this is just a starting point for them. To remind them (and each other) that we can — and should — take what we learn and play with it. It’s going to be a never-ending process until we can change the way we teach our kids.

  • Joseph Bernard

    Tea, I love this message. It questions so much while being said in a way that won’t turn anybody ornery. In these times of I’m right and your sure better think the way I do, it is so good to challenge the status quo.

    I am for a peace revolution of any kind that will incite is us more compassion and a higher level of consciousness.

    Super writing.

    • Tea Silvestre, aka Word Chef

      Thanks, Joseph! It’s SO hard to find the right balance between rattling cages and keeping the peace. But we’ve got to try. The alternative is apathy and more of the same — definitely not a place I want to be.

  • Karen

    Tea, this feels so much like the Emperor’s Clothes to me – you’ve said the thing no one seems to want to say but NEEDS TO BE SAID. This was a huge relief for me to hear, since as a new coach I feel bombarded with “Take My Fail-Proof Magic-Secret Six-Figures-In-Sixty-Days Workshop/Teleseminar/Class Series” offerings. There always seems to be the implicit – or sometimes, depressingly, *explicit* – message that this offering is the only way for me to build a successful business, and if I choose NOT to do it according to their “magic rules”, I will simply fail. This usually makes me sick to my stomach. Sometimes because I start wondering if they are right and how on earth I can dig up more $$ for all these offerings when I’m not yet seeing clients. More often than not, though, it’s out of anger at these messages, and that leads to a deep resistance to the idea that I can only make a viable business by following someone else’s rules. I have to believe this gets talked about, but I’m new to the community and haven’t seen it yet – your post was really reassuring. Thank you and keep saying what no one else wants to say!

    • Tea Silvestre, aka Word Chef

      You’re right, Karen! It DOES get talked about. Just not out in the open. I think a lot of people are afraid to speak up and ask the hard questions. There’s a lot of “A-list” folks out there we don’t want to piss off. But really…who wants to live in THAT world, anyway?
      I’m glad you found this post, at least. You need to know you’re not alone in what you’ve noticed. Do NOT internalize the messages.
      Nobody on this planet can hand you a book of secrets and make everything okay. Not at any price.
      What’s important is to find and connect with the peers and mentors who encourage you to be you, but are also there to ask YOU the hard questions when they need to be asked.

  • Julia Hayes

    You are leading the wave of integrity amongst marketers Tea and thank goodness for you.
    Because the world of internet marketing is so foreign to so many small business owners, they feel they need their hands held. The gurus’ experience in using emotive language for manipulative purposes paid off for them.
    I was influenced by the hype at first because I didn’t know any better, but it didn’t take me long to realise there was always some valuable part of the puzzle missing from the secret.
    Following blueprints and not taking risks plays out in the world of franchising. I could hardly find a restaurant in Florida that wasn’t part of a franchise.

    This is somewhat left field but where I see an immediate and very strong association is in the business of cancer. The mainstream medical fraternity offer a couple of standard solutions (chemo/radiotherapy) when a tumor is found. None of which actually treat cancer but remove or reduce tumors and as long as you live for 5 years thereafter it is called a ‘cure’.
    But do-this-my-way-or-you-will-surely-die is the message given when people are afraid and they put their lives and bodies into the hands of the medical gurus. Critical thinking and questioning isn’t encouraged.

    • Tea Silvestre, aka Word Chef

      You’ve pointed out something very important, Julia — we are a planet of beings who’ve been taught to rely on experts and authority. So we do. This challenge touches EVERY facet of our lives, and if we want to create a better world, we’re going to need to unlearn that habit.

      • BirdyD – Roving Robin Reporter

        So, Tea, how do you do that? I know I’m still working on polishing my English on our site, so the fact that there are still crickets isn’t necessarily surprising, but there is that feeling beyond that of how do you find these people who are willing to think differently? How are you able to find enough of them to matter?

        In my field, especially, difference is not seen as a good thing, but as a thing to be dispensed with ASAFP!

        And yes, if that makes your head hurt, know that you aren’t alone in THAT, either.

        I don’t get it.

        I refuse to put up with it.

        Now what??? :>

        • Tea Silvestre, aka Word Chef

          Part of finding your right people starts with having and speaking a clear message. A big WHY (in all caps). In ALL fields there are those who don’t appreciate boat rocking of any sort. They’re in my field, too! And the desire for harmony and peace and friendship can sometimes put a damper on our ability to say what needs to be said (loudly!). But if you stay on message — and if your message is one that people find helpful — things will begin to turn around. How quickly is in direct proportion to how clearly and how well your message is expressed. So getting the words right is definitely the first step.

          • SandyMcD

            It is often the case that people of talent, knowledge and experience don’t define clearly for all to see the WHY of what they do. A luminary I know says as a mantra, people don’t buy or act based on what you do, they buy or act on WHY you do what you do.

            ‘Gurus’ sell a WHY that is premised on false promises. But they’re brilliant sales people and as long as there have been snake oil merchants, we’re lured by the pictures they paint that will resolve whatever our pain is. Not enough money, not enough success, can’t find love etc.

            I think it’s our greatest challenge to change this paradigm for ever. Define our WHY, get out there and serve to make a difference and in doing so put the snake oil merchants well and truly out of business.

            Where did I read recently how a major moving moral force can affect change? One day we will view the 1 Step To Multiple Millions Overnight products as taboo as smoking at the dinner table. But not before many more millions have been sucked in. Sadly.

          • BirdyD – Roving Robin Reporter

            Makes sense. Was at our site the other day and looking at the sales page, realized YET ANOTHER go-round is in order.

            Annoying on the one wing.
            Good on the other wing, since it means we are establishing (and agreeing on! :>) that clear message. :>

    • BirdyD – Roving Robin Reporter

      Oh, Goodness YES!!! And not just in that section of the medical field either – Western medicine, whether traditional or not, is riddled with that attitude. :>

      It’s getting so you don’t dare go to a doctor, lest you get caught up in their judgement and hysteria, but you don’t NOT go either or who knows what is happening in the meantime??? :>

    • Gerhard Käppler

      Unfortunately we need experts more than ever in this complex world. I am thankful for experts who will help us with medicine or repair our broken cars. But you are right, Julia, that we should always sharpen our wits and question any easy given answers.

      I remember a true story of an airplance accident that happened years ago (as I remember in the US). A short while after starting from an international airport the captain was noticed by an indicator that the front landing gear was not completly retracted. Both the the captain and his copilot started immediately with troubleshooting and checked their procedures. While bending forward to a switch one of the pilots inadvertently locked the autopilot in a position where the plane would smoothly begin to descend in a wide turn. It was a night flight and no one of the crew or the passengers noticed the change in height and direction. However there was a mother with her little son in the cabin who flew this route already many times. As always her son was looking out of the window and down on the illuminated buildings and streets. He noticed at once that the plane slowly descended again and that it was flying a turn. He was excited and asked his mom to tell the captain, but she told him to relax and rely on the experienced pilots. The kid however insisted to report his observation and at last the mother could not do otherwise but call a flight attendant. The flight attendant was friendly listening to the boy but only appeased him to stay calm, as the captain would have a reason for his maneuver. She did not tell the pilots of the little boy’s observation. The pilots however where still so distratcted with checking the reason for the frontgear failure that they overlooked a descend warning sign. Only seconds before the plane crashed against a hill the captain noticed that there was something wrong. His last recorded words expressed his surprising: “what’s going on here?”. Later the accident investigators declared that the front gear was locked and retracted perfectly and that the alarm which attracted the pilot’s attention for so long was just a false indication.

      I read this accident report long ago but it impressed me quite a lot and that’s why I still remember it. So what can we learn from it?

      • Tea Silvestre, aka Word Chef

        Wow. That’s an incredible story, Gerhard. I think the biggest lesson here is that we need to be more open and LISTEN to messages from everywhere — to not discount the message because of the messenger. You might want to explore this story (and its meaning) in more depth on your blog (if you haven’t already). Thanks for sharing!

        • Gerhard Käppler

          That’s a good idea, Tea. Actually I did not consider to publish it on my blog but maybe I will. It is a thought provoking report. Though I have to do some fact checking first because Germans always want some proof lol! It was a domestic flight but I don’t remember the airline.

          • Karen J

            True or not, that’s a great cautionary tale, Gerhard!

  • Pingback: It's my birthday! | Click Here For More Customers()

  • Raul Colon

    I personally have issues reading instructions. Just the other day at the gym since I am not very coordinated when executing exercises that have a sequence the fact that I get told to work my muscles in a certain way irritates me (but I know their is value in listening).

    For everything I am usually creating my own path.

    Culturally in Puerto Rico we usually start building things without the instructions so its in our nature to wing it and then come back once we have stumbled on something.

    Awesome Post!

    • Tea Silvestre, aka Word Chef

      I wonder how that tendency (to not read the instructions) got started in Puerto Rico? How did you all escape that mind set, I wonder?

  • Anya Faingersh

    Tea I enjoyed so much this article. So many people keep believing there are simple ways to resolve all problems and it’s just they haven’t found yet that magical reciepe. When in reality great results require great deal of thinking, self development and a lot of not easy choices.

    • Tea Silvestre, aka Word Chef

      True, true!

  • Erin Howard

    Uh oh Tea, you’re making me nervous here. When I buy a new car I always drive home and read the instruction manual first thing, and until very recently I got anxious cooking without a recipe!

    I think it’s great to really learn the basics about anything at which you want to excel. A few people can hear a song and play it by ear right away, but a lot of us need to start with playing scales and reading music before we can play or compose a song.

    But what I am taking away from your post is that too many of us stop there – we learn the building blocks and then never use them to build something bigger and better. We just keep doing what’s always been done and never ask whether there’s a better or more interesting way. That’s what I’m working on right now with my life and business, and you’ve inspired me to experiment a little more.

    • Tea Silvestre, aka Word Chef

      Hee, hee! I LOVE it when I make people a little nervous, Erin. That means there’s something important there that needs closer examination.
      But yes, you’re right — my problem is that most of us get stuck in that place of this is how you do it and never ask the question, “Could there be a tastier option here?”
      Nearly ALL of us have been conditioned to think this way, so until we wake up to it, we won’t have a chance in Hell’s Kitchen to change it.
      So glad you’ve caught the wave!

    • BirdyD – Roving Robin Reporter

      Yes! :>
      It’s not the recipe, it’s the stopping there.
      Exactly so. :-) :>

      Experiments are phun! :-) :>

      (ask me how I know :>)

  • BirdyD – Roving Robin Reporter

    And yes, absolutely with you! :-) :>

  • CJ

    Good Lord, I do this all the time in the kitchen, brilliantly, but feel like I’m doing something wrong in my biz when I want to do it my way.
    (shall we break into song?)
    So my stuff ends up sounding stifled. Sheesh.

    • Tea Silvestre, aka Word Chef

      Are you ready to stop stifling your creativity, CJ? Elvis is singin’ to you:

    • BirdyD – Roving Robin Reporter

      I hear you there!!! :-) :>

      I, too, have moved past the recipe-stage for a lot of what I do.

      But biz-wise?? Forget it! :-) :>
      It’s like it’s a sin or something. 😛

  • Laurie Nylund

    And here I thought I had a lock on the best son in the universe (who also hates being told what to do). Perhaps it is a generational trait. 😉

    He hasn’t quite found his passion yet, though he is trying hard. Glad that your son has-that is just an awesome drawing!

    But as to your main point, YES! I am almost 6 months into creating a business that means something. But, I admit I spent the first few months reading and trying to practice what all the “A-List” people had to say about how to go about doing it. Coming from the software world and being a natural rule-follower, finding a “formula” for doing this seemed like the right way to go about it. Bzzztttt. Wrong!
    I don’t think I was ever looking for easy answers, and I wouldn’t know what to do with a 4 hour work week, but I *did* think there was some kind of magic that I just needed to find and put in place.

    From a highpoint of reading 32 different blogs and subscribing to 3 different membership sites (which admittedly I did learn something from though at a high cost), I now follow only Tea, Danny Iny and Seth, besides a couple of pointed technical blogs that fall in my space. I love everything Tea writes and her experiments are fabulous.

    I do think we need to think for ourselves, but as a solopreneur, you are only one person and nobody has a lock on all the aspects of what it takes to create and grow a viable business. So, I think there is a very valid need for a coach, but not one that just gives you a blueprint and sends you on your way.

    How do we get Tea’s voice to be heard by more people? I took her Secret Sauce class (but I was lucky enough to win it in a contest!) and I bought her book (which I recommend!), but that is not enough to justify what she is giving. And how do we get our own “voices” heard and more clients for our own services?

    I believe Tea is on the right track. Yesterday I got the best testimonial from a client yet, so I think I am on the right track as well. But, I didn’t follow the rules, I went much deeper into the requirements that the client really expected, and I spent more time on it than I probably should have. And I loved doing it. So, I know for me, I just have to trust my instincts more, and keep doing what feels right rather than what the “rules” would have me do.

    • Tea Silvestre, aka Word Chef

      Thank you for such a thoughtful response, Laurie. I’m honored! (And I will have to tell Danny what you said.)
      The only way we’ll ever change this is to reach critical mass. It’s going to take a movement bigger than just this little group. We have to keep talking about it and keep talking about it…it’s a long shot, but stranger (good) things have happened!

  • Jim Bessey

    One of the best posts I’ve read in weeks of doing research for my current site, Tea.
    I despise Instructions, always change the recipe, love to tinker with HTML just for the fun of it, and yet couldn’t live w/out Copyblogger’s step-by-step help and concepts. AND I can both draw and follow detailed blueprints.
    What I love about this article, Tea, is that you’ve done so many things in ways “they” tell us (writers) to do them — yet your whole message is compelling and fresh and fun to read. I’ll bet your no-recipe meatloaf wins awards. This is why I keep coming back here when I feel like I’m buried in mundane chores and just need some tasty inspiration.
    What’s for dessert?

  • Elizabeth

    It’s been said by a few people in different comments here
    but I do believe that you do need to start with following at least a basic
    recipe (manual). The problem often is that you don’t know which of the recipes
    that you look at is best suited to your needs. It’s all a matter of trial and

    I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to achieve when I
    started my online business but I’ve lost count of the number of Blue Prints
    that I’ve read trying to find the best approach for me. Has all that been a
    waste of time? I don’t think so because without this ongoing search I would not
    have found the Test Kitchen. I have always been technically capable of creating
    websites, FB pages, online business course materials etc. but marketing it was
    a different story. By following the Test Kitchen recipe I was able to really
    get my head around it. As a result I’m now able to pick the best bits and
    pieces out of the Blue Print melting pot, add it to Tea’s recipe, give it a
    stir, add a bit of my personal flavor and “Hey Presto” I have a business
    building recipe with my own variations. Now all I need to do is keep it
    simmering and who knows, my recipe may become someone else’s basic user manual
    at some point in the future.

    The point of all this? Throw away the manual and do your own thing by
    all means but not until you’re sure that you have read enough of the manual to
    have the basics under control.

    • Tea Silvestre, aka Word Chef

      You’re right, Elizabeth — it’s often preferable to learn how things generally work before we move on to experimentation. The problem I see, though, is that folks get stuck in thinking there’s really only one right way to do something. And then — when things don’t work for them — they wonder what they’re doing wrong and why things aren’t flowing as promised. This often leads to negative thoughts like “I’m no good at this,” or “I’ll never learn this stuff.” What we need to do instead is help each other relax a bit and be more open to playing with the ingredients. I know you understand this — my point is just that our word choices (like recipe, formula, blueprint, etc.) tend to perpetuate this problem rather than fix it.

  • cherylpickett

    HI Tea, Great conversation going on here. As an oldest born (natural rule follower :-)) I don’t think the issue lies totally with blueprints and formulas. Science and engineering along with plenty of other industries would crumble without them. Are they overused in the online business industry? Yes, to a point. But as others have said, there needs to be foundation of learning and for each individual to start by reinventing the wheel in most cases wouldn’t be smart.

    I think, as you mentioned, the bigger problem is expectations. Somehow people have gotten it in their heads (thanks to unscrupulous sales methods) that business is purely a science when it is most definitely not. Formulas work great when you need to replicate the flavor of a soft drink every time you make it or when tab A needs to fit into slot B or else the car will fall apart (I live near the Motor City :-)). When building a business, though, there is more art involved to it than many will admit or teach.

    Art/creativity/innovation/creative thinking/critical thinking call it what you want. There is a good portion of that in every successful business. I agree, that’s where so much teaching falls short whether online or even in college I’d be willing to bet. A lot of the follow the formula kind of thinking started in the industrial age when people got jobs doing what they were told, exactly how they were told to do it. For a huge majority of the world at that time, that was how life worked. To a lesser extent, that still exists today (again, Motor city).

    However, that mindset no longer serves a huge part of the work world, including that of entrepreneurs. It never has really. The thing is though, years ago, only a few stepped out of the hourly worker/do what you are told world to do things on their own because it was harder to do.

    Now, the basic elements of starting a business are much easier to accomplish, but I think a lot of people are trying to use the mold of the hourly worker to become an entrepreneur and that’s where the big clash happens. That’s a huge point where the mindset needs to change for many people. From there, yes, learn the skills you need, see what’s been done so you don’t have to start from scratch, but understand the real work that’s involved to get to success. If it’s not for you, absolutely nothing wrong with that either, just admit it and serve the world in another way.

    • Tea Silvestre, aka Word Chef

      Yes! You totally get it, Cheryl.Thanks for reading and joining the conversation.

  • Pingback: In Favor of Slow Marketing()

  • Bill Walles

    Your post set off a continuing stream of memories and nightmares.
    Over nearly forty years of non-profit work, I see places where I did well (all right, satisfactorily). In each stretch of productivity, I was “in charge.” No pure wins, a healthy sprinkle of mistakes and failures. In the end, as the colors bled over the lines, the final product was engaging and exceeded expectations.
    In those places where I was reigned in, told to stop looking at the larger picture and concentrate on my limited piece, produce my widgets, don’t make so many suggestions, I see depression, smaller gains, and colleagues desperate to be successful. In those circumstances, I didn’t add much to their goals.
    These days, trying to clean my keyboard of ennui and fear, instructions taunt me with false promises and freedom escapes round corners at the end of each block.
    Your courage, sewn into the quilt of posts and other work, has been good for me. Breaking tendrils that want to tie you down may be lifetime work, but you are more free than many and an inspiration to many more.
    At sixty-seven, I cannot turn off the drive to write, to be creative. Reading winsome material that reveals the truth reminds me that creative endeavors don’t have to be isolated to single individuals.
    Thanks. I’m more freed up today than in months.

    • Tea Silvestre, aka Word Chef

      Thank you so much for your thoughtful response, Bill. As I told you in an email, it’s comments like these that make it all worthwhile for me. Hugs!

  • Zeus Yiamouyiannis, Ph.D.

    Let’s add “awesome” to the overused list. If everything is awesome, then nothing is. I wish the word could be brought back to its roots, that is, standing in awe, being deeply affected by the beauty or insight of something you engage, more like staring at the Grand Canyon (beauty) or reading a kick-ass, truth-telling post like this one (insight). Awesome is never a word I would associate with a “blueprint” but rather an expressive, critical, or creative act that has real power to affect others.

    • Tea Silvestre, aka Word Chef

      Word! I’ve been trying to get people off the “awesome” train for the last couple of weeks. I’m definitely with you on this one, Zeus.

      • BirdyD – Roving Robin Reporter

        *heh* Ain’t gonna happen with this Bird. Just sayin’. :>
        (But I’ll try to keep it to a minimum around you. :>)

  • Kimberly LoSavio

    I love this, Tea! Thanks for sharing your personal stories about your son! And I’m so glad to hear that you did not succumb to society’s “let’s drug YOUR kids so WE can handle them better” BLEEPs {insert whatever word you choose}. I have a son much like yours and I’m pretty proud of where he is today as well! YAY for our boys!!!

    Being a visual person and one who learns better hands on, manuals are only good when I am in trouble LOL Your post is inspiring and thought provoking! Thanks for being the absolutely fabulous Lady that you are!!! <3

    • Tea Silvestre, aka Word Chef

      Thanks for chiming in, Kimberly! So glad to hear I’m not alone in helping our children (and each other) with the task of being exactly who we are.

  • Pingback: Busy but Inspired – Best of the Web | Firepole Marketing Blog()

  • Pingback: The Un-Sexy Side of Internet Marketing()

  • tammy vitale

    oh! – creating a new language, throwing away the instruction manual….you had me at “follow their lead, no questions asked”. This is totally delicious!

    • Tea Silvestre, aka Word Chef

      Thanks, Tammy. I’m a lot more sympathetic to your mission than you knew, eh? LOL

  • Pingback: Doctor Who's Favorite (Marketing) Dish: Fish Fingers and Custard! - Word Chef | Tea Silvestre - Marketing Consultant, Writer()

  • Pingback: How to Stand Out from the Crowd and Build Something that Matters - Word Chef | Tea Silvestre - Marketing Consultant, Writer()

  • Donna P

    Just wrote a long response but couldn’t figure out how to send.

  • Donna Pohl

    Now I see how! Don’t have time to repeat the lengthy response but basically saying that I love this article. It must have struck a cord in your readers too, judging from the number of comments.
    Thanks for sharing some of your personal life. I’ m sure you were worried about Sean as you raised him, worried you weren’t a good mother or shoulda or shoudna done this or that. So glad he’s grown into an adult you admire and respect!

  • Pingback: No More Marketing: Why I’m Done (and an Invitation to Join Me) | Story Bistro()

  • Pingback: Seditious Much? Why Your Industry Needs You to Rock the Boat - Story Bistro()

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This