Do You Live on The Island of Misfit Toys?

by Perry Marshall

In last month's newsletter, I opened a vein and bled a little bit. I talked about our "baloney sandwich and ramen soup" years and the sacrifices Mamalaura made along the way. None of it was trivial stuff.

I got a good deal more feedback from that newsletter than I usually get. My favorite response was from Michael Cage (who, like Mizel, is one of those geniuses that quietly goes about his business):

"I think the idea of the Rugged Individual, while romantic, is basically crap. So many people in the entrepreneurial realm are so hung up on having made it "all on their own" that they completely discount things like the space their social relationships (including family/spouse) create for them to be successful and also manifests with the "I don't have customers, I have numbers" mentality. I did a teleseminar a few months ago all about the ramifications of a horribly controversial idea - "Your customers are human!"

I remember about three to four years ago thinking to myself, "I've got a lot of colleagues, but I don't have all that many friends. It was a phase of life - and I think this is quite natural for people to go through this - where there wasn't room to do or think about much else besides running through the maze, ringing the bell, and getting the cheese.

If that's where you're at, that's where you're at. I was there for years. (Actually it was run through the maze, try to locate the bell, can't find a bell, can't ring the bell, can't get the cheese, so go back to beginning of maze, run through it, try to find the bell again…)

One of the tricky things about being an entrepreneur is, the people around you do NOT necessarily understand your obsessions. They're content to watch TV. You're not. They leave their job at the office. You don't. I've got two things to say about this:

1. You are a misfit. You always have been, always will be. Let me tell you about one of my friends from elementary school, Kent. I grew up with him, all the way through college. We were both in Engineering, we had some classes together. I noticed that while I was still something of an attention getter, one of the louder people in the class, Kent was always quiet and studious. Always got good grades. Always one of the professor's favorite students, at least if he got noticed.

We worked at the same company for a summer. He started working there when he was fifteen and he STILL works there at thirty-nine years of age. One of the prize workhorse employees. Steady, smart, industrious, obedient. Pats on the head. Wife and three kids. Model citizen. Yada yada yada.

I get into and out of college…. the company we worked at wouldn't hire me back because I couldn't pay enough attention to fine details and I would screw up assembly of delicate parts and they'd have to be re-worked. I would get fired from jobs. Some of my profs thought I was annoying. I work at Jensen and get laid off after a couple of years. I go into sales and that's kind of a disaster for a couple of years. What is the friggin' matter with me, anyway? I had hope that I would someday find my groove.

I realize, the world needs a lot of Kents so your electricity will come on every day. The world needs obedient worker bees. But that's not what I am.

Now I wouldn't trade with Kent, ever. To me he has a very boring life. He doesn't go to interesting places or see interesting things, he doesn't go far from home and doesn't taste a very wide variety of what life has to offer.

When I go to seminars and give talks, I tell a story of how I got fired for sending an obnoxious FAX message back in 1990, the first job I ever got fired from and telling my wife and her parents and everyone how I got fired.

And then I get fired again… and again…. I tell about how Kent was always the good kid and why couldn't I be like him?

I ask people, raise your hand if you've been fired from multiple jobs – most people raise their hands. raise your hand if you've always felt like a misfit – most people raise their hands.

It gets quiet and I say, "Hey you guys, I want to tell you something. You wanna know why you've always felt like a misfit?"

They look at me.

"BECAUSE YOU ARE!!! You ARE a misfit. You wouldn't be here if you weren't. That's why you can't get into some boring routine. That's why you spend money and come all the way here from wherever you are and you stay up all night and work weekends and you get fired from perfectly good jobs and you can't stand the Dilbert cube working under buzzing fluorescent lights. You can't stand the man's boot on your neck and you'd rather risk failure and disaster and embarrassment and bankruptcy than submit to that hideous mediocrity that the big machine wants you to conform to.

You said, "I can't fit in in an office, maybe there's a place for me on the Internet where all the geeks, freaks and misfits hang out."

"You're here because you're a geek and a freak and a misfit and I am too and that's why you're here and Kent is not. And you know what? It's okay!"

That's right. You're a misfit, and… it's okay.

2. The other thing I want to tell you is: Somebody has to put up with you. Don't feel guilty about that; they get to share in the rewards, too. Surely they knew they were in for some of this when they signed up. But think about it: When you were cutting your teeth as an entrepreneur, it was your sweetheart who was putting the bread on the table and making ends meet. Maybe they still are. Enduring your learning curve along with you.

Make sure you give that person the appreciation they're due. (Look 'em in the eye and say it. Oh, and a letter in the mail wouldn't be a bad idea. Way better than an email, by the way. Would only take you 15 minutes to express your appreciation to her / him on a piece of paper and drop it in the mail. Whadaya think?)

A few months ago one of my Roundtable members from the UK brought his wife with him to the meeting.

He'd implemented new ideas like a banshee and they are raking it in. And his wife is there telling me, "You know, I'm real mum about this recent success to my friends. They just get jealous. If I told them how much we're making now they'll think they deserve a share of it, and meanwhile, be completely oblivious to all the years we labored hard together in the trenches, making this thing happen."

And I'm sayin', Amen, sister. Yes, you are who you are because a lot of other people have contributed to your success. Not just glamorous gurus either, but un-glamorous, un-celebrated people who live with you and love you and your crazy misfit idiosyncrasies. Make sure you thank them.

To your success,


Perry Marshall is an American entrepreneur, online marketing strategist and author of several books, most notably the bestsellers 80/20 Sales and Marketing, Ultimate Guide to Google AdWords, and Ultimate Guide to Facebook Advertising. For more information, please visit