#9 The dark side of success they don’t tell you about

  • A reality check on money
  • How to know when you have enough
  • How to deal with haters
😍 Something I'm grateful for this week

A Festive cautionary tale about achieving all your dreams ..

A Festive cautionary tale about achieving your dreams ..

Although it will be Jan before this post is published,
As we approach Xmas I’m sitting writing in my garden office,
I’ve wound down client work and put my “out of office” signature on,
I have my Christmas hat on 🎅

I’ve just done my annual review,
Looking back on my successes, failures, learnings, what I’ve done and not done.
I’m comparing where I am and want to be.
There’s some interesting patterns emerging I wanted to share…

First of all I notice that I’m never really happy with my progress.
It’s something I’m working on.
As soon as you let go of setting goals based on money it gets easier.

Don’t get me wrong: Money is still important.
It’s difficult to pause and consider your place in life, when your too busy chasing down invoices so you can pay the bills.

But the frank truth that the gurus won’t tell you:

After a certain point of comfort, money isn’t going to help you any further.
You set goals, you chase them, you achieve them, then you set a new, higher goal.
Goals have nothing to do with happiness.

After hitting your goal (whether that’s 6 figures, online fame, perfect abs, the sportscar, whatever)…
a lot of people are going to find that after achieving their goal, after the very short lived elation….
a huge crushing wave of restlessness comes pouring in.
It can feel like there’s a huge pit in your soul.
In the past, I inevitably would fill this with yet another lofty goal, the next step, the next stage.

If you want more money, keep chasing those goals.
If you want freedom and fulfilment, start enjoying the process.
Find pleasure and fulfilment in the doing.

Rather than focus on growing an audience,
I focus on writing one useful article a week.
Rather than focus on making £10k/m,
I focus on making x1 sales call a day.

For a time I’ve been teaching people how to grow a 6 figure business.
But my own posts talk about how after a certain point of comfort,
money means very little.
I’ve not been practicing what I preach, until I sit down with my quarterly review,
and realise I’m exactly where I wanted to be, doing exactly what I wanted to be doing.

Looking back is how you find satisfaction with where you’re going.

But the real work is yet to begin.

These are the difficult questions that will keep you up at night after your making enough money:

  • Who the fuck am I outside my job?
  • What do I want?
  • What do I offer the world?
  • What’s important to me?

I realise not all of you signed up for this deep, life chat.
Some of you just want the marketing tips.
or may be you just want more of the systems I use to run a 6 figure business on a 3 day workweek .
That’s ok, there’s more of that too 🙂

It’s easy to overlook the fact that there will always be someone still ahead of you.
Jeff Bezos is probably always looking in his rearview mirror, worried Elon Musk is going to surpass him.
Of course Bezos and Musk both measure their success by their networth,
which is why they will never be satisfied.

But I’m here to help when you’ve smashed those goals and aren’t sure what to do next.

Even when I smash all my goals and targets I always have someone else ahead of me to compare to.
This is precisely why I do my annual and quarterly reviews.

Without clarity on what my plans were a year ago it’s easy to lost sight of how far we’ve come.
(if you want to steal my system for this I’ve documented it here)

I’ve been very fortunate to achieve a very modest slice of success in a very narrow niche of design for startups.
If your competent and consistent, eventually your going to reach a point that you are successful in your niche by some measure.

fate, fortune, or strategy, whatever you want to call it, has afforded me a very small slice of success in a very narrow slice of the market.
I’m not rich by some standards, but I have enough.
I’m not famous, nor do I want to be.
I’m in demand but I don’t need more so I try to prioritize time now.

But I have to constantly check myself, because my default is to chase more. It’s only when I look back I see things clearly:

3 years ago my goal was to make enough money to match my full-time job and quit.
By the end of that year my Design Hero income had doubled my full-time wage.
Another year later I was earning more in some month than I had in a year in my 9-5
I’d have called that a huge success.
And yet…

I don’t think I was any happier earning £20k/m than I was only earning £2k/m
In fact there were times where I was miserable,
My fulfilment systems hadn’t caught up with my offer and sales skills yet, so I was exhausted and burnt out.

Fame and riches should only ever be seen as fortuitous side effects. But they are more likely to come if you focus on developing what is under your control: your talent and efforts
Derren Brown, happy

This is the problem with monetary goals:
When you reach them you won’t suddenly decide to pack up your tools and go home.
You’ll set a new, higher goal and keep on striving.
Goals are important to keep us motivated, but that’s all.
Goals don’t lead to happiness and fulfilment.
So make sure you set the right goals.

My happiness seems to me no more attached to what earn (once past that watershed point of not having money troubles) than it does to my wallpaper. And know more than my fair share of wealthy people and they’ll tell you the same. Money, fame and success exist on the other side of that line in the realm of external indifferents: nice to have, but outside of our jurisdiction. They may be rewarding by- products, but they will never prove gratifying if they are chased directly.
Derren Brown, Happy

This was an important stage of my life as I shifted from monetary goals to more purpose led goals.
I had been chasing monetary goals as a measuring stick, because I was seeking external validation of my worth or abilities.
Once you realise this and switch to internal validation it’s much easier to be happier with where you are.

Money won’t make you happy
Success is a worth goal.
But only as a benchmark.

There’s another benefit of internal validation,
that ties in nicely with the second downside of success…

When you have even a small amount of success in your niche,
suddenly everyone wants to either
A ride your wave 🌊 or
B 💩 through your letterbox.

People you hardly know or haven’t talked to for years suddenly want to be your best friend.
Personally I love the waveriders.
They usually are more encouraging than anything,
even if they’d like a little bit more credit for your action than I’d like,
Which is only human and can be excused by their natural enthusiasm
I encourage you to embrace this.
Love and be loved.
Where Amateurs see competitors, the Pros see partners.
There’s plenty to go around,
Always encourage your peers and lift them up.
Offer free value where you can, don’t hoard your knowledge
In fact if your building a true network on social you can find peers in the same situation and ride each others waves, propelling each other forwards.
On a practical level, your most engaged audience will be people doing the same thing as you.
Ride that wave together 🌊

Because the alternative is the haters

Haters are harder to deal with

I remember my first haters well.


I was taking over a website for a client, and their previous web designer went from amicable to unhinged over the course of a ten minute phone call.
He accused me of “cheating” and threatened to come to my house and beat me up.
It was totally out of the blue and caught me totally off guard.
This was peak lockdown time so that may have had something to do with it.

Update: I hadn’t heard from this guy in over 2 years, when he suddenly called me out the blue on a private number to accuse me of being part of the Spanish mafia, and masterminding a campaign against him.
It turns out he had been ringing a string of web designers, threatening to slit children’s throats and all sorts of nasty stuff.
I think he needed help, which is sad, but possibly makes it even scarier.


On the less scary side of the spectrum, A few years back I heard 3rd hand someone I had never heard of or interacted with was calling me a fraud across social media.
I didn’t even know how he knew about me or my work. Never met him.
Turns out he’d come across me on social media and didn’t like what he saw.
I still have no idea why he felt I was a fraud.
But it hit me hard, since imposter syndrome is only every one new blog post away for any creator online lol

There’s been a few every once in a while since.
These kind of haters are always unexpected, unpredictable and unplacatable.
Haters usually come out of nowhere.
It’s likely you won’t even knowwho they are or how you’ve wronged them.

In my experience haters are most often dissatisfied with their own lives, or have some personal drama going on and fixate on an external outlet.

This tends to come from several places.
Here are X4 types of people to avoid like the plague.

Inelastic People.

People who have been doing the same thing for years without success. They aren’t willing to change their ways.
They wonder why all their clients treat them like crap, why they don’t get results, and see other people who innovate as “cheating”.

Unobservant people

When people see exceptional results they usually assume it happened overnight, and is undeserved. They don’t see the years of hard work or consistency.
Lack of observation or self awareness means they won’t unpick your actions, they only look at what they can see. They see your results not your efforts.
This can lead to the illusion that your success happened overnight, instead of years of strategy and consistency.

Insecure People.

A certain type of person who feels they have something lacking in themselves will seek outwards instead of inwards. They may push others down to elevate their own perceived status.
You’ll see this one in designers who bash other designers work online a lot.
Usually these issues are inward facing but directed outwards at you and a focal point.

Strategies for dealing

The best thing you can do with all of these is disengage.
Don’t waste time justifying yourself to people you don’t know.
Validation comes from within.
Anything you say or do will likely confirm their bias or feed the troll with the attention they secretly crave.
NEVER bother to justify it explain yourself
(unless you’re in a public forum, in which case you may wish to reply with some short context, then ignore).
You know what else I’ve noticed about haters?
They have short attention spans.

As a black hat strategy…
You can feed the trolls for further engagements, which may push your social posts higher up the feed 😂
If you follow the disengagement strategy they will get bored and move on to the next target of their outwards projection.

Use humour.
If you choose to interact, use humour to highlight the ridiculousness of the situation.
Most people will see the reality.

Becoming bulletproof

The most important strategy is not how you deal with haters, but how you react to them.
Your reaction is usually to defend your ego; or the image you have of yourself as a competent person.
In fact you don’t have to deal with them at all.

First, consider their point.

Are they correct?
It’s easy to dismiss people as haters because their opinion of you is painful.
Sometimes the insults that are true sting the most.
Pay attention to that.
If there’s truth in the sting, adjust your own behaviour!

But more often their comment isn’t about you, it’s about them.
You don’t need to do anything except ignore them.
Once you are confident enough in your own purpose and your own worth you won’t feel as much need to respond.

These strategies (which I pinched from the Stoics) help me I hope they help you.

How do you deal with haters?
Email me and let me know!

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💡 Key Insights for solopreneurs

Don’t tie your success to how much money you make. That’s an external validation. If you can shift your opinion of yourself to something more internal you’ll be more likely to find fulfilment and happiness.

🛎️ Daily reminder for solopreneurs

You are more than how much money you make.

💥 How to take action in the next 5 mins

Take 5 mins to think about this Q:
“How will I know when I have enough?”

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Nicholas Robb

Founder, Design Hero
Author of Life by Design

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