Dabbling Isn’t As Safe As We Think It Is

I think we dabble to keep ourselves safe.

Try a few different social media platforms. Experiment with a few different kinds of offers. Play around with a few different marketing techniques.

On one level, it feels like you’re increasing the odds of success and decreasing the risks. The more I hedge my bets and divide my efforts, the more likely something is to pay off, right?

But what I’ve learned over the years is that when I divide my effort, my odds of success go down

That’s because I don’t give any one opportunity the full attention and energy it needs to succeed.

Back in January 2016, I had a goal to double my company’s revenue. So I concocted a plan that required us to promote and launch 6 different offers over the course of the year.

Every 4-6 weeks, I would shift focus from one offer to the next. If one campaign didn’t go to plan, I had the next one to even it out.

The plan was designed for safety but its lack of commitment should have been a red flag for disaster.

We fell behind quickly. I confused my audience. I put a huge burden on my team. I felt overwhelmed and burnt out. By June of that year, I wanted to burn it all down.

The math behind that plan made sense (sort of). But the strategy did not.

It was easy to see–even then–that I would have been better off going all in one 1 offer.

If I had put everything I had behind building an audience for that offer, strengthening the foundation and systems of that offer, and delivering that offer at the absolute highest level I could…

…I could have come much, much closer to my goal. Instead, I dabbled my way to a solid but absolutely exhausting year.

I couldn’t see just how bad the plan was, though, because spreading out the risk seemed safe.

If I had made a plan to go all in on just 1 key offer, the potential for failure would have been too real. It might have paralyzed me.

Dabbling makes sense when the stakes are low. 

We dabble on hobbies. We dabble in our taste in movies or music. And you might even dabble intentionally when you’re just getting started with your business because you do have to figure out where you want to commit your time and energy.

But as our experience grows and we continue to swap dabbling for true commitment, we guarantee mediocre-at-best results.

Going all in carries risks. 

Absolutely. It also carries with it the possibility of wild success.

That success could be financial. But it could also be a major success in your schedule (it typically takes less time to go all in!). It could be success in your mental & emotional capacity (going all in is its own challenge but requires so much less task switching).

Do you know what you want to go all in on?

Maybe it’s a marketing channel or a particular offer. Maybe it’s brand positioning or your niche. Maybe it’s a combination of all of those things so that your business plan is one super efficient, high performance engine that’s “all in” on its total design.

Maybe you know what you want to go all in on but you are paralyzed by the very real possibility of failure.

If you’re having trouble committing to just one thing, I think it helps to look at what you’re really trading for.

You’re trading the uncertainty of going all in for the almost certain stagnation of dabbling.

So what’s it going to be?


One of the reasons we continue to dabble and fail to go all in on something that could really work is because we just haven’t found the thing we feel passionate about, the thing that feels easy and freeing. Looking back, that’s how Marie Poulin describes her business up until about 8 months ago. Then, she found the thing she wanted to go all in on and her business took off “like a rocketship.”

🎧 Click here to listen.


I’ve had a bunch of conversations with people recently about how the world is hungry for leadership. Interpret “the world” loosely. Could be your family. Could be your audience. Could be your local community. Could be your individual clients. Could be your nation. But different people lead (and contribute to leadership) in different ways–you don’t have to fit a stereotype to be a leader. Charlie Gilkey writes about 2 leadership roles: Initiator and Coordinator.

👓 Click here to read.


My own self-identity is wrapped up in the praise I receive, the perception I’m trying to cultivate, and the sense of belonging I’m always searching for. I’m working on it. I’ve found this year to be a time when I–and many others like me–are looking at our identities in new ways and starting to create a better understanding of who we are for real. This is huge because your pseudo-self can have a big impact on how you conceive of your business and implement your plans. Kathleen Smith shares how to let go of your pseudo-self.

👓 Click here to read.


Some business owners I work with have been hit dramatically by the changing economy (both good and bad). Others have taken smaller hits or seen small bumps in sales. Others are waiting for the impact to arrive. I believe none of us will walk away from this period without making some substantial changes to the way we do business and pays to start thinking about how the changing economy will impact your business now. This Buzzfeed article details how consumer behavior is already adapting and–I think–invites us to think about how we might build an economy that has less to do with consumer spending and more to do with public good.

🎧 Click here to read.

Cover of What Works book by Tara McMullin

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What Type of Goal-Setter Are You?

What Type of Goal-Setter Are You?

I've explored goal-setting and planning with small business owners, creatives, and independent workers for over 12 years now. That means I've observed many different types of goal-setters. Some confidently choose a new goal and get to work. Others rebel against...

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