So, a brief story with a lesson.

Someone who I care about, who we will call Janet, had a bit of a problem on her hands. She was trying to figure out why she was putting on weight. (A not insignificant amount of it.)

She was talking to her friend, whom we will call Andrew, whilst sitting on her couch and sharing some tea and sweets.

Apparently this is how the story unfolds.

“I don’t get it,” she says. “I don’t know why I’m gaining so much weight.”

“I’m doing everything right.”

“I’m a vegetarian.”

“I’m teaching Tae Kwon Do four nights a week.”

“I’m riding my bike everywhere.”

“I’m drinking green tea ‘till it comes out of my eyeballs.”

“And I’m down to the very last pair of jeans that even remotely fit. What the hell is going on?”

Andrew gives her a level look.

“Do you think it might be the cookies?”

Janet looks down and notices that the bag of cookies in her hand is actually closer to one-third of a bag of cookies, opened fresh that morning.

Upon reflection, Janet realizes that she has, in fact, bought a bag of (organic!) cookies each time she has gone to the farmer’s market this week. All four times.

“Oh,” she says.

Oh, indeed.

Just because it’s visible doesn’t mean you can see it.

We, as humans, are very good at noticing things we are TRYING to notice.

So very good, in fact, that we tend to forget that there are important factors going on in the background that fall outside the narrow band of things we are focusing on.

This is such an innate part of human nature that we’ve coined an expression for it: “You can’t see the forest for the trees.”


When we look for the SOLUTION to the problem, we often lose sight of all of the things that are tangentially – but crucially – related to the problem itself. The little things in the background that make up the metaphorical big picture.

In Janet’s case, yes, she became a vegetarian – which “should” be healthy, except for the fact that she replaced meat with a whole lot of sugars and carbs.

Yes, she teaches martial arts four days a week – as a second-degree black belt, no less. But when she wasn’t a teacher, she was doing laps around the dojo and major calisthenics with everyone else. Now, she’s doing a lot more standing still making sure all her students are doing THEIR laps and calisthenics right.

Yes, she’s riding her bike all the time, but walking less than she did before.

And yes, she’s drinking massive amounts of tea, but eating a lot more snacks with it.

In other words, she’s doing a lot of GOOD things, and her focus is on that – not all the other little things that are happening in the background.

Now, Janet’s story has a happy ending. In a post cookie-conversation-world, she has made some changes to the fundamentals of what she’s doing and can now wear her other jeans again.


There is a lesson here for you.

Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not visible.

You may be doing a lot of GOOD things in your ittybiz, and wondering why things aren’t working as well as you think they should be working.

You may be networking. Working the social media circuit. Writing up a storm on your blog. Sending your newsletters out as consistently as you can. Going to all the trainings and free webinars. Reading every marketing blog you can get your eyes on.

And yet, sometimes things still aren’t working.

You may be wondering why.

It would be a good idea – especially as we enter the height of the holidays, when you’ve got a few moments to be away from the ins and outs of your ittybiz, and you’re planning for and dreaming about the year to come – to ask yourself whether you may be missing the forest for the trees.

Maybe the reason “the thing you’re doing” isn’t working has nothing to do with “the thing you’re doing”.

Maybe it’s something tangentially related.

Maybe it’s something completely unrelated.

Maybe it’s something you’re NOT doing.

Are your core marketing activities taking too much time away from you fixing the more important fundamentals of your ittybiz?

Are you pouring yourself into those activities without taking stock of whether they’re actually paying off (relative to the time you’re spending on them)?

Have you added new marketing activities and, without thinking about it, stopped an “unrelated” thing you used to do that might have been critical to your earlier success?

Could the real solution to your problem lie in the forest, and not in the trees you’re looking at?

Do you think it might be the cookies?

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