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How to have a ‘Middle Road’ Mentality and Grow Your Online Business

My Dad’s Middle Road Mentality

My Dad always taught me an important lesson in life that still serves me well today…. “Learn from everyone you come across in life – whether they’re on the same path as you or not”.

He called it the ‘middle road’ and told me that in life you’ll come across all kinds of people with different views (in politics, in theology, in business). Many of them would write off everyone else’s experience or views as wrong and believe that their way was the best.

However he’d found that rather than writing those with different perspectives to you off, it was powerful to listen to everyone and to learn from them.

The key was not to just accept everything that they said as truth, but to take what was relevant to you from those on different paths to you and apply it to your own situation – and to leave behind what didn’t fit with your situation, values and approach.

Dad’s advice has continued to come back to me through life in different situations – but recently it’s been applying a lot to my business and approach to building an online presence.

The Middle Road and Online Entrepreneurship

You see in the online entrepreneurship space there are many approaches. Some of them are more extreme than others and often they rub people up the wrong way.

The temptation is to simply write off everyone who rubs you up the wrong way and to ignore their teaching completely – however the problem with this is that you could be throwing out some great teaching that is mixed in with a few bits that you don’t like.

I was a Purist Blogging Snob

I’ve been guilty of throwing out the baby with the bathwater in this space many times. I remember being asked to speak at an internet marketers conference in the USA 4-5 years ago and coming away from the experience feeling sick in my stomach. The hype, trickery and manipulation of some of those presenting turned me off completely.

In hindsight I should have taken my Dads advice to that conference because while there were things in it that I was right to feel sickened by – there was also a lot of good stuff that I should have taken on board.

You see at the time I believed that I simply had to build a great blog and people would come to it and I would make money – I didn’t need to market it, I didn’t need to develop products to sell, I could just build a great site and put some ads on it and I’d do well.

This ‘purist’ approach worked OK…. to a point, but I could (and should) have learned a lot from those internet marketers.

  • I should have listened to them talking about the importance of building an email list/newsletter
  • I should have taken note about what they said having my own product to sell
  • I should have listened to them talk about the process of launching those products

I should have learned a lot that week…. but I didn’t. I allowed the bad stuff that I saw to overshadow the gold that would have taken what I did to the next level.

How I got Back on the Middle Road and Doubled the Size of My Business in a Year

Of course, 3 years later I did learn those lessons. Those of you who read ProBlogger will know that I’ve changed my approach somewhat of late. While I still believe in building great blogs and I still make good money from advertising, I’ve begun to develop email lists along side my blog and have started to release my own products.

I’ve also started to read and learn from some of those ‘internet marketing’ people. I struggle with some of the more extreme ones, but there are a few good people in that camp who are starting to get the social media/blogging space too.

One I’ve mentioned here before is Jeff Walker. He’s known for his Product Launch Formula – something I enrolled in last year when he opened it up and which taught me a lot. In fact he was one of the main people who helped me to get back on the ‘middle road’ and to see that while I was having some success that I still had a lot to learn.

I’ve since launched 4 products which have done really well and this income stream has more than doubled what I was earning previously in just under a year (my accountant emailed me recently to ask me what I’m doing!).

Of course there are a few things in Jeff’s teaching that I’ve left out of my approach – but the stuff I’ve taken on board has been invaluable. The key is to not swallow everything whole but to take what resonates with you and to apply it to your situation and to calmly leave what doesn’t ‘fit’ aside.

Jeff has recently released a video that talks about big product launches and what he’s learned along the way. He reveals some great details (including income figures) on some massive launches. The video is well worth the opt in.

Whether you learn from Jeff or not, I guess the take home lesson that I’m trying to communicate is to have a ‘middle road’ mentality. There is great power in opening yourself up to learn from those on different paths who are trying different approaches to online entrepreneurship.

Learn what is working for others, filter it through your own situation and values and you might just find your business grows as a result.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.
  1. Hi Darren,
    I think going through phases like that is a sign of growth – I too have struggle with extreme views of marketing – I know I’m just not built for it. But there are things that I’ve taken into account and tweaked to fit my style and so far so good.
    I’ve learned to try to absorb as much good from others as I can. There really is some good in everything. Even if it is rather small. :)

  2. Your father has given you a valuable advice. He is absolutely right. Everyone should learn the good things from others to succeed in life. This post was really motivating.

  3. Hey Darren,

    That is why I visit here everyday to learn and pick up something that will allow me to move my business forward. Thanks for sharing this link to Jeff Walkers Product Launch videos.

    Have a great weekend…

  4. Yes, I agree, there are bad marketers out there.

    But that should not undermine you, actually you should see it as an opportunity, an opportunity to be a good marketer.

    An opportunity to be an Honest Marketer, that actually provides value and that actually builds relationship with their visitors/customers!


  5. I like to look at what others are doing. Kind like making an Internet Marketing swipe file. Although it can be overwhelming at times, hopefully I come out with my own ideas to add to the mix and find what works for me.

  6. Does being middle of the road contradict the idea of being exceptional and standing out?

    There are many “middle road” blogs out there but are they the ones that people remember and come back to?

    I get the point though, my dad always says “flexibility” is the key to life. Molding yourself to the world is much easier than trying to get the world to change and meet your way of thinking.

    Of course what ever way you look at it you need to stick to your core values and apply common sense. The world is too complicated to summarise in a sound bite :)

    Now go watch some football – come on England!

  7. Dads are smart people! This is excellent advice, Darren. Too often we completely disregard an idea because we overreact to one part of it. Your description of being a purist that has moved to the middle of the road applies to me as well. Thanks for being a role model as well as provider of so much solid information.

  8. I am doubly guilty of writing off an entire situation rather than gathering information and ideas that I can use for my own benefit.

    Your Dad’s advise is very useful and I will make strides to use it in my future dealings.

    Thanks for sharing his wisdom with us…:)

  9. Carol Roy says: 06/12/2010 at 2:59 am

    Here, here Connie!! I second that…Dad’s are very smart people and we don’t usually find that out until we’re in our twenties (when we begin to realize we’re not as smart as we thought we were in our teens ;o)

    Just had a blazing example of Darren’s theory in my life this week. I sure didn’t like the delivery method, but the message behind the method was a life lesson and I was just smart enough to see through the delivery method and learn from the message.

    I think that sometimes we turn our heads from things we perceive as offensive because those things touch on something inside ourselves that we don’t want to face; sort of acting as a mirror to something inside us we’re not ready to tackle, so we shun it in others.

    My lesson for this week; don’t shoot the messenger, just read the message. :-)

  10. My Dad taught me to be curious and to say ‘hello’ to even strangers. My Mom taught me about fairness. Somehow this has all blended to come out about where you are – I can, when I’m willing, learn from everyone.

    Thanks for the post.

  11. These are great tips and reminders. I need to finish my e-book. I’ll work on it and figuring out how to launch it on my blog.

    Rita blogging at The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide

  12. Blogging is still the platform to get traffic. But the new system of building an e-mail list is the future!…

    Clever video courses are being released all the time!…

    But the courses will only sell if the brand is there…

    Another awesome post…

    David Edwards

  13. Hi Darren,

    Thanks for sending out your post about the middle road. I must admit, I’ve been a little hesitant to jump on the program you have been advertising. It seems too pushy for my test. However, I have subscribed to the free newsletter. I realized three things after reading your post and one of his newsletters.
    1. I had not set myself up as a business
    2. I had not identified anything to sell other than eBooks & that would be a long way off since I just started blogging. I am focusing on content now rather than creating things to sell. Now I realize I can broaden what I sell to services.
    3. I also realized after more research, the audience I am currently addressing (online instructors) doesn’t have a big enough niche for me to make much money. They are not easy to find either. I have now decided to expand my audience to online students and teachers. I can see myself offering services to students helping them identify a good online school for their goals. I can also advise college and university professors about their online courses–many are reluctant to share their work with colleagues for fear of criticism and some kind of backlash. I can advise teachers how to get good student evaluations, document the quality of their work and use best practices in their online sites. I can evaluate their sites confidentially to help them succeed.

    Thanks for the gentle nudge to be more open to your colleagues approach.

  14. Great post, Darren.

    This is an important lesson for blogging, yes, but also for life in general. It’s a principle I live by. In fact, last week I hosted my first cookout for Memorial Day. It was great, and turnout was high, too. But the best part was seeing the oh-so-different kinds of people that are in my life, all coming together, and all representing different parts of me.

    Talk about a good time! :)

  15. The middle road approach is a great one, thanks for the post! My middle road has proven to move me along much faster than choosing an immediate side or ignoring one that I don’t necessarily resonate with, if at all.

    It is great information to share when someone can take something from it. Thanks for putting your story out there.

  16. I get alittle something from everything I read on this blog; I need to build an email list…that’s my middle of the road impression of this article! haha

  17. I agree. This is a principle that is actually how law of attraction works. We are attracted to certain things and not attracted to certain things (people, places, concepts).

    Any “pushing against” will only create chaos (within ourselves) but when recognized, is an opportunity to see what we want instead.

  18. Thanks, Darren.

    This post so hits home. I went to an Internet marketing conference in Florida 3 years ago and I was so incensed by their manipulative tactics that I couldn’t filter out the good parts, the pieces that made sense for me—for my marketing style, my ethics, my values.

    I found that after letting the materials sit for a while (including the videos), I was able to come back and say, “Well, yeah, this piece of advice, this strategy, just might work for me if I changed it a little bit.”

    Keep what works and toss the rest.

    It just requires us to use critical thinking skills, to be a little analytical, to really apply it to our situation. That’s more work but the rewards can be great.

    Thanks for the stellar advice.

  19. Coca Cola spends tens of millions every year, even though it’s number one¡­ just building the brand.

  20. I too have problems with the extreme marketers out there. I’ve looked at plenty over the past couple of years and it took me a while to figure out ‘what’ I was looking for. I try to take the middle of the road approach tho these days as there is always something to be learned from other people – even if it’s what not to do!
    I think I’m going to be here reading your posts every day now! Thanks.

  21. Hi Darren..

    I agree that taking the middle road is great advice. It allows you look at things from different perspective. There are good elements of both– however keep the parts that are true to your values or true to yourself. That way you will enjoy what you are doing and attract the kind of clients that are like minded hence a much more enjoyable experience for your business.

    Really enjoy your work and style Darren

  22. Great advice Darren. Definitely food for thought!

  23. Middle of The Road I like it. There have been times that I begin reading an article, sales page, blog post, or whatever and don’t even consider finishing it. I have been reading quite a bit about list building, but have not really found where I could benefit. I think about list building being another job which I really don’t have time for. I know there is a lot of good software, but creating extra content plus my blog seems to much. It may be worth it though. I am glad to hear that you are doing well with your own products. Anyway good post.


  24. One of the smartest men I ever met was a recovering drunk at an AA meeting. He looked across the table at a blabbermouth whose breath was still flammable and pronounced “The good Lord gave you two ears and one mouth. Does that tell you anything?”

    It’s amazing how much we learn when we use what we are given in the ratio we are given it. One mouth, two eyes, two ears, ten fingers.

  25. Hi Darren,
    I totally agree. I work on keeping my mind open to everything I hear and see and every person I meet and hear about. Then I filter the information to the needs of my family and my business.

    I also learned a very important idea from my Dad and it is that when everyone one is doing something do the opposite. Which makes for an interesting discussion as to how this applies to one line marketing at this time.

    Thanks again for an interesting post.

  26. Hey Darren,

    I really love your down to earth style and completely resonate with this statement when you said,

    “The key is to not swallow everything whole but to take what resonates with you and to apply it to your situation and to calmly leave what doesn’t ‘fit’ aside.”

    It sort of reminds me of how a puzzle works. The most natural way to move forward is by finding the next puzzle piece that ‘fits’ and to work with it.

    Each step of the way you discover another piece that fits and some others that don’t. Applying the ones that fit help us move forward.

    So in the end it sounds like what you’re saying is that it’s important for us to be open to discovering new puzzle pieces along the way and to trust ourselves to put those pieces in place.

    Great insight,

  27. I agree totally on what Darren is saying here. I just started blogging and i find your advice the best always. I have a dream of being you or better one day. Thanks a million.
    The best paid to click sites

  28. You point out various key points and you dad is a smart man…..

  29. Darren,

    I discovered your blog after purchasing your book from Borders. It was my first introduction to the power of wordpress. I eventually stumbled on a great theme to power my ecommerce site with wordpress. I never thought that was possible, so thanks for pointing me in the right direction.

  30. Darren this was about the smartest thing I’ve read in a long time. It’s so easy to bite your nose off to spite your face in this business; I hope people listen and not become an extremist and try to do everything only to wind up stalled from overload…does that make sense? Thanks for a breath of fresh air. Enough cliches’ today…haha!

  31. Hasan says: 06/16/2010 at 1:00 pm

    Hi Darren, i am really sorry if my comment is out of topic. i have a question according to your post here:


    after reading it now i know about this new type of service. But i have a question about spam comment. If someone comment on our blog using a keyword for the name field but their comment is original and match to the post then is it a comment spam? since we do not know what’s motivation from people who comment on our blog. some people really interesting in the post but some other people are just comment to get backlink and visitor (if they’re lucky).

    One more questions. Is it included in comment spam too for people who comment on blog and they put their keyword link by inserting a link in the body of comment? please note that the whole comment is match with the post. But the commenter cleverly put their link (with keyword of course) and combine it together with other words and make it into a good quality comment. What’s your opinion on this? Is it a comment spam or not? This type of comment often seen in a dofollow blog with allowed html tags on the comment body field.
    (sorry if my english is not good. this is not spam, i am from Indonesia)

    Thank you very much if you answer this question.
    if you dont post my comment it’s never mind. i just hope you answer my question even if you answer it by email. thanks again.

  32. I guess I totally agree with your dad. Learn with all the strangers you come across. Each of us have different experiences regardless we are on the same path. Their experiences will be our best teachers just like ours.:)

  33. I completely agree with you Darren. Because, it takes time to figure out what works for you. The things you never thought work could end up working for you. Sometimes a blend of two or three methods can double or triple your income.

  34. I would like to agree with you that we shouldn’t let everything down. We should learn from others especially the things that fits on our situation. I am glad that you learned that from experience and I think everybody should learn from other people’s experience too.

  35. Your father has given you a valuable advice. Everyone should learn the good things from others to succeed in life.

  36. I believe you have to listen to everyone to get a good medium in internet marketing.

  37. I have always tried my best to learn from others to improve myself. While I haven’t always been successful at listening to others’ ideas and being receptvid to crticisism, I have found that trying to take the middle road can be beneficial at times.

  38. Why is the middle road is so filled with potholes? :)

    Seems there is the one road filled with hope and promise, dreams of untold wealth (as I’m sure they reeled off in that conference you were at) and then there is the opposite “lane” that seems to lead to failure and misery (for those that don’t realize they made wrong turn and keep trying to find their way)

    I think perhaps the middle road just might be the only steady road to take.

    It can be a bit of a chore trying to sift those “nuggets” out though, and leave the rest as you pointed out.

    Thanks Darren

  39. Your comments on “middle of the road” are well taken. I’ve frequently found myself thinking that my way is the best way but it’s always good to see what others are doing. I’ve often gotten sick of the absolute hype that others try to sell. A little hype is good but only if it’s warranted and you have good products. Most of the hype you see doesn’t have anything to back it up.

  40. Learned a new term today ‘ middle road’ . In fact I have the same attitude. Learn from others and share what you know. In this process you gain more knowledge and the same time when you share your knowledge, people begin to respect you and thereby you build a reputation. you are right ‘the middle road’ principle applies to business too. Interesting post!

  41. Great advice and good common sense.

    You can learn something from anyone that you encounter – good, bad, or indifferent. Everyone brings something different to the table.

  42. Whilst true – your dads belief that you can learn from all – is a problem for progress.

    There is just too much to know to keep a handle on all of it, and researching ideas can paralyse action.

    I guess the motto is not so much “learn from everyone” as “learn from your customers” and keep in tune with what they think.

  43. Listening to all but acting purely on what aligns with your goals,ethics and vision in my opinion is the key.

    It becomes even harder to do that when we are biased instead of taking an objective approach.

    What works for many may not work for you and vice versa.

    Just my 2 cents.


  44. A good balance between short and long-term planning is key in my opinion.

  45. I agree with taking bits and pieces from everyone and applying it to your own situation and your own capability. I don’t believe that everyone is talking the complete truth about making money online but I also believe that they are some good learning points that can be filtered out which works. I think the “middle road mentality” is a good way to approach internet entrepreneurship.

  46. I attended an internet marketing conference in the past, was one of my first, was also sickened by their hyped info products. The conference seemed like a big sales pitch and I didn’t like that. I went there thinking to learn new techniques and strategies to grow my online business, but was instead shoved in the face with hyped up info products. It was a 2-day conference, and i never went back the second day. My attitude has changed since then. Thanks for your share. :)

  47. Hmm, I’ve learned something today…to be quick to listen & slow to speak;)

  48. Having an intense curiousity about learning about life and people is I agree a recipe to success.

  49. “Learn from everyone you come across in life – whether they’re on the same path as you or not”

    “…and whether ther’re foe or friend or maybe no one”


  50. Your Dad and mine would get along well; raised with the same mindset. He would say, “Remember, you are never at the top, you can always learn from those ahead and behind you” and another great one, “take what you like and leave the rest”. Such a great post Darren; you speak so honestly, it is much appreciated!

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