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Dig if you will, the picture:

It’s 10-ish years ago. Kanye was gonna let Taylor finish at the MTV awards. Harem pants were making their brief resurgence. Shimmery vampires were driving teenyboppers and soccer moms alike crazy in movie theaters. Mr. White had yet to truly break bad. And the whole Internet entrepreneur thing was still in its relative infancy. There wasn’t really a set way of doing things, and everyone (my 21 year old self in my first year of business included) was trying out a lot of different things to figure out how to make it work.

Now things have drastically changed. The Internet entrepreneur thing is very much in, people are teaching other people the lessons they learned from all the experimenting, and more and more people are doing seriously amazing things — all of which is awesome.

The downside is that once something becomes more widespread, things start to go from “Give it a try” to “This is how you do it.” That’s not always a bad thing — there’s no need to reinvent the wheel every time you do something — but when it becomes prescriptive, there’s a problem.

Enter Entrepreneur Barbie

There’s a sort of Barbie doll standard of what makes a good business floating around. You know, the cool website, the blue hair if you’re edgy and the shampoo commercial hair if you’re not, the HuffPo article, the 6 figure launch, 4 hour workweek, the neverending stream of content every damn day.

Here’s the thing: if you do something that helps people and they pay you for it, and you can keep the lights on and the Internet fast, you’re running a good business. Not the only business you could run. Maybe not even the most profitable business you could run.

But so many people have become so focused on collecting the merit badges of entrepreneurship that they end up donwplaying the already great things they’re doing, thinking “Well, when I get the post in HuffPo, then I’ll have a really good business,” or “After my 6 figure launch, that’s when I’ll really have it made.”

Put the merit badges down.

(Said in my best Alec Baldwin ala Glengarry Glen Ross voice.)

None of these are bad things in and of themselves, and they might be just what you want and need for your business. But they’re just tools.

It’s so critical to understand that getting these things will not automatically give you the business you want. You’ve got to know the why behind them, the strategy behind the move — because you might find out that actually, you can get the same result in a way that’s much easier, faster, or better for your business.

As I’ve said before, you don’t have to do it because somebody else does it. You don’t have to think it because somebody else thought it. You don’t have to believe it because somebody else said it (even if it was Seth Godin.)

You just have to run your business in a way that’s the best for your clients, your bank account, and yourself. The end.