I’ve been watching a documentary on HBO called “The Vow.” It’s your typical feel-good story where a bunch of people get involved with a self-help guru without realizing they’ve actually joined a cult, despite some obvious red flags like… well, I don’t want to give anything away. You should check it out though. It’s fascinating.

Watching this, it’s easy to wonder how anyone can possibly get into this situation and not know that something isn’t right. I always do my best to understand other points of view. I try to put my own judgment aside in attempt to find an explanation that makes sense. That’s not an easy thing to do. We all place some level of judgment on everything – it’s part of having a human brain. In this particular situation, however, it’s hard for me to see how they got so far into it before they realized that what was happening was wrong. That’s not to say I blame these people – I wasn’t in that situation, so I can’t criticize their choices.

This happens all the time, though. Usually it doesn’t get to cult status, fortunately, but people do tend to get caught up in these fads of self-improvement while searching for ways to change their lives and businesses for the better. They look to others for inspiration, motivation, and some magical advice that will help them reach their goals. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with looking for input – if someone else is able to give you a different perspective that helps you move forward, that’s fantastic. Where it gets dangerous is when you take everything someone says as certainty without questioning if it really makes sense or if it’s really the right way for you.

The inherent problem with some of these self-help books and groups and courses, in my opinion, is that they enable people to look outward to find what’s right for them. It’s normal to want others to guide us – to tell us how we should run our businesses, how we should make decisions, and what we should do to get ahead. But, while all of these people can give us ideas, no one else can tell us what’s right for us, especially when their content is generalized. If you’re working one on one with someone who is taking the time to learn about you and your business workflow, that’s different because they are, hopefully, tailoring their advice to you. But keep in mind that being an expert in your field doesn’t mean you have a one-size-fits-all process for what you do. We all have to inject our own needs, personality, thought process, and so much more into crafting our success. The best answers are found by looking inward because you know yourself better than anyone else can.

So instead of looking up to others, why not be your own hero?

Looking for external validation can be dangerous because, in most cases, people are trying to fit you into their box. They’re teaching you from their point of view and what they’ve experienced. It makes sense, but the specifics of their situation might not be applicable to you. It’s also easy to get caught up in the images we see, which aren’t always reality. You can look at someone’s website and social and think, wow, they have it all figured out. But we don’t see what’s going on behind the scenes. It’s best not to make assumptions, whether they’re for the best or worst (or somewhere in between). Even if you do your research, you never really know. Think about how many of these well-known people have been outed for acting in a way that goes against everything they teach, and then all of their readers, listeners, or viewers feel betrayed because they believed in what they were selling. No one is perfect and no one has all the answers. Be leery of anyone who is pretending they do, or promising their system is guaranteed to make you six figures or any other outlandish claim. If you dig into the fine print, you’ll usually find something along the lines of “results shown are not typical.” We can’t expect anyone to be perfect or exemplary of success all of the time. But we should be able to trust ourselves to do what’s right for us.

My podcast here is a perfect example. I’m sharing with you what has worked for me. And I hope that it helps you in some way. But I know that not everything I suggest will work for you, because we’re not the same person. If you’re still here at this point, you must resonate with what I say to some degree, and that makes me happy. But I also want you to be honest with yourself and if you implement any of my tips, make sure they are in alignment with who you are and what you need. That’s why I find myself repeating sentiments like “find the system that works for you” or “it has to make sense for your brain.” I don’t want to be repetitive, but I think it’s so important to include that kind of disclaimer for transparency. I’m not in the business of giving anyone false hope and I encourage everyone to think for themselves.

I’m not trying to be a guru or pretend to be someone with all the answers. I just want to help by sharing what has led me to this point, where I’m happily running my own successful business and enjoying my freedom. Basically, I want to be the mentor I never had. I’ve had to figure everything out for myself. I’ll always be grateful for that, because that’s how I got here in the first place. But a big part of why I decided to start coaching and to do this podcast is because I want to help people bypass some of that trial and error period and avoid some of the headaches. There will always be some of that, especially if you’re pushing yourself to try new things and expand in new ways – which I hope you are. But I know how much I’ve learned from running other people’s businesses for so long, and now my own for the last several years, and I believe that a lot of the ideas I talk about can at least help lay the foundation for you to build upon throughout your own journey.

When people ask me who I look up to, I don’t really have an answer. I can’t name a book that’s changed my life. There isn’t an entrepreneur who has inspired me to change how I run my business. I haven’t listened to an interview that motivated me to do something completely new. Honestly, when I’m looking for content, I look for entertainment or education about anything that isn’t business. Because my work takes up most of my life already and it’s just not how I want to spend my free time. That doesn’t mean I don’t hear stories about other people’s accomplishments and think, wow, that’s great. I wonder how they did that. Or man, it’s really cool they were able to do that. But I focus more on myself and don’t get too caught up in what other people are doing.

I don’t mean that to sound selfish. I just mean that I’m not comparing myself to others. Of course I care about other people and do my best to acknowledge and support everyone I know in whatever way they need. But, while I have great people in my circle, they aren’t the ones pushing me every day to keep growing my business. I am. They aren’t there to tell me if what I’m doing is the right move or not. I have to figure that on my own. And they can offer advice, but they can’t have the same investment as I do – they aren’t the ones who have to deal with the repercussions if I make a bad decision. So I have to be able to rely on myself. I’m not trying to be anyone’s hero but my own. I have to live with myself and the choices I make. What better motivation is there than that?

So where do you start if you’re not looking to others for inspiration? Start by figuring out who inspires you and why. What are the common traits and values of the people you respect? Do you hold those same values? What are they doing that you want to do? And if you aren’t doing it, what is stopping you? Are you clear about your goals and doing the work to achieve them? Are you living your life in a way that makes you proud? Can you take some of the time you’re spending reading, watching, or listening to these people you admire and spend it on the things you need to do to move ahead? Are you the type of person you look up to?

You don’t always need to find examples of what a successful person does. Sometimes you can be the example. Find validation in yourself. Trust your instincts and run your business in the way that makes sense to you. Prove to yourself that you are a success.

Be your own hero, because your opinion of yourself is the only one that really matters in the long run.