Don’t do it.

After spending most of the past year laying a solid foundation for my resort-based websites, I found myself listening to guru podcast after guru podcast instead of concentrating on things that really mattered to drive my business.

I was of the opinion that everyone else (except for me) had uncovered the secret to online success. If I could just listen to each worthwhile podcast or attend the ‘mustn’t-miss’ webinar, I, too, would learn the secret and be on my way.

Three things happened that not only changed my mind, but more importantly, corrected my course.

The Perceived Experts

There were two back-to-back instances that didn’t just make me take pause, they stopped me cold in my tracks.

I was following one social media guru who I thought had all the answers. First, I noticed her healthy twitter following and her impressive guest lineup for her webinars. I opted-in to receive her free manifesto and purchased one of her online courses on social media.  I even participated in her members-only social media groups.

And then I decided to take the day off, away from the computer. Relaxing by the pool with my podcasts fired up and ready to go, I had the first “oh, say it isn’t so” moment.

This nice guru of mine was being interviewed as a guest entrepreneur for another podcast. Truth revealed, she was barely scraping by and admitted to almost throwing in the towel numerous times.

Here I was, thinking she was making well over six figures a year when she had just surpassed four. I did learn some things from her, but to assume she was the ‘be-all, end-all’ because of her following and connections was a miscalculation on my part.

By the way, you’ll start noticing, once you hop on the guru train, that clusters of gurus begin to form in order to build each other’s email lists via guest posting and webinars. It’s not a bad short-term tactic, but it seemed to me to be more about tit for tat than forging real partnerships focused on bringing genuine value to the end customer.

Mistake #1: Don’t believe everything you hear.

I invested less time in following the second guru.

He appeared to have credentials and came recommended by yet another guru in the circle I followed (one who actually walks the walk), so I was almost hooked when our less-than-impressive encounter occurred.

I registered on his website for his enticing offer to be considered for one of the free spots in his mastermind class. He clearly knew of one proven online secret: the money is in the (email) list.

He got this sucker’s email address.

Yet, instead of gaining access to his ‘expertise,’ I was given random reasons why we weren’t a good fit — one being the name of my company of all things. Another reason?  He wanted members of his mastermind class to possess a robust email list in order to help promote his business.

After I provocatively pushed back, he conceded. I unsubscribed after seeing others complaining in his email threads about similar tactics.

Mistake #2: Believing you can get something for nothing.

It was at this moment that my chutzpah returned, and I finally realized it was time to quit looking outside myself for some illusory magic potion.

Guess what? The secret is that there is no magic potion other than putting in the work.

Interestingly enough, when I stopped looking at the gurus and started looking in the mirror, I realized I possessed more sales and marketing experience from a longstanding sales and marketing career than they had since graduating from college (or not) just a few years earlier.  I’m guessing I also made more money.

Because I came from a corporate sales environment, I was under the wrong impression that my past experience wouldn’t translate into this new online world.

Mistake #3: Thinking online sales is completely different from offline sales.

With 20+ years of solid sales experience, I know one thing for sure: sales is sales is sales.  If you can sell offline, you more than likely have the ability to sell online, given the right tools.

Because of your experience, you’ll know that it boils down to offering value where demand exists.

Yet, since there are so many new variables that impact an online business, ranging from community development to search results, it’s easy to become sidetracked in the confidence department.

Confidence Builders

It wasn’t until I reinstated my confidence and started unsubscribing from those pundits who didn’t deliver real value to my work day that I got back to doing real revenue-generating work.

For one, the time I saved from emptying my inbox of guru solicitations has been nothing short of amazing.

Since unsubscribing, I have used that extra time to complete Technology Entrepreneurship e-145 which is a course offered through Stanford University (it is one of my endorsed programs).

This third ‘eye-opener’ was time well spent.

If you want to succeed in any online business, I suggest you start there, learning from the best (really).  This course, which was difficult and time consuming, was inspirational, educational and invaluable.

I just learned that out of 2,000+ teams who participated in Stanford’s foray into online learning, my Food Compass Team Project is one of a handful being considered by Stanford for promotion of their online course.

This compliment (and my team’s five star rating) drives home the point that when you stop looking to others for all the answers, it’s amazing what you’ll uncover — all by yourself.  You’re more competent than you think you are, and the truth is that no one knows your business better than you do.

Now, if you’d just start taking the time to listen to your intuition over their podcasts.

Bottom line?

I may have been prey to some of the self-proclaimed gurus who didn’t deliver, but that’s a thing of my past.  If you don’t have proof (such as a solid Alexa ranking, huge community or a professional write up vs. a guest blog post) or years — not months — of experience backing up your claims, count me out.

You need some feathers in your cap if you’re going to be called a guru in my book.

Don’t get me wrong.  There are many experts, both online and offline, who can teach you more than a thing or two, so don’t rule out building partnerships and learning wherever you can.  I just recommend choosing your gurus wisely by teaming up with accomplished entrepreneurs who have built real businesses and/or products that generate real revenue.

I’ve accomplished a lot this past year — but my primary focus from the start should have been testing and confirming my hypotheses about the market. I’ll continue to use Lean Launch Lab to do more of that going forward.

And although I will still follow a few of the proven gurus who have taught this old dog new tricks, I’ll be refocusing my efforts and trusting myself more.

I hope you’ll do the same.