I would like to go on the record to say that I really like Pat Flynn and have been an avid reader of his Smart Passive Income Blog and listener of Smart Income Podcast. This post is to share my thoughts on Pat’s book Let Go and why it made me see Pat’s story in a slightly different light.
I must admit I didn’t know Pat’s story in great detail before reading Let Go but from what I’ve heard and read in the past I got an impression that Pat’s story went something like this. Pat is a regular everyday guy who lost the job he loved during the Housing Collapse. He decided to try online business and after some initial struggles and loads of hard work he managed to build a thriving online empire which proves that if you work really hard anyone can do it. As I was reading Let Go however I realized that this narrative is not exactly correct.
First of all, Pat is not just a regular guy. While reading the book and watching the videos it becomes very clear that Pat was a very hard worker at school and University getting involved in extra activities to advance himself. At work he also applied himself over and above through hard work and more study to become the youngest Job Captain ever in his architecture firm. Pat clearly was a high achiever through school, university and employment. I dare say that he was in top 5% at school and his job. Should it surprise us he excelled online as well? Are you in the top 5%?
The second thing that struck me is that Pat didn’t actually start from scratch. I mean he did, but not in a way I thought. I was under the impression that Pat started to build an online presence only after he lost his job. But as explained in Let Go he actually already had a very popular blog highly ranked in Google, he just didn’t realize he could make money from it. During his time at the architecture firm Pat built a blog to help him study for the LEED exam. Over time and unbeknown to Pat his blog became very popular drawing around five thousand visitors every day. This is the sort of traffic most people could only dream about and vast majority of bloggers never achieve, no matter how hard they try. From there Pat had to work very hard to write a good eBook to monetize the site but he already had the beginning of a very successful business. I do not want to diminish Pat’s achievement, but it is hard to ignore that it is much easier to monetize a site with five thousand daily visitors than to generate that sort of traffic from nothing in the first place and then monetize it. In Pat’s case it took years. In reality Pat actually did both of those things, but importantly, part one (getting the traffic) happened almost by accident as the result of a study project long before Pat was laid off from his job. I wonder if his story would’ve been the same if he had to start with no job and no online asset waiting to be monetized?
Let me be clear that I am not trying to say that Pat was somehow lucky and doesn’t deserve his success and great admiration. I think he absolutely deserves it. But if you read Pat’s story you would realize as much as I did, that Pat’s success is not a result of some Internet marketing bullshit like “believing in yourself” or “following your passion”. His success is an outcome of a very talented and hard working individual applying himself by creating a valuable resource without the initial motivation of making Internet riches, driving traffic, getting ranked in Google, selling affiliate products and so on. He first created something very good and valuable and then, and only then, he made any money from it.
Does this make Pat Flynn any less inspirational than he is? No certainly not, but those that learn his story have to draw the correct inspiration. Pat’s story is more complex than an commonly regurgitated Internet marketing narratives would lead us to believe. While there is not reason why Pat’s success cannot be emulated, his story also sheds the light on why most blogs and online ventures fail. In my experience the vast majority of the “make money online” crowd simply doesn’t have the necessary attitude, aptitude and marketable expertise to become the next Pat. Are you the top 5%? Are you the next Pat Flynn?