The Mistake You Don’t Want To Make

ThinkingIn his books and seminars, motivational speaker and coach Tony Robbins shares what he calls his Ultimate Success Formula.

It’s a deceptively simple five-step process:

1. Decide what you want.

2. Know your reasons why.

3. Take massive action. 

4. Notice what’s working or not. 

5. Change your approach until you achieve what your want.

I could easily write an entire blog post about setting specific goals, but today I want to talk about the third step of this formula: the necessity to take action.


There’s a reason why Americans like using sports metaphors. Sports are all about energy and action. People bring their ‘A’ game, they step up to the plate, and knock it out of the park. I love that go-getter mentality, but as a coach and fellow-freelancer I think success is as much a result of the things we don’t do, as it is of the things we choose to do. 

Whether you take action or not, there will be consequences.

Comparing those who have made it in a highly competitive industry to those who have not, I see clear differences. Those who ultimately gave up, did that in part because they failed to act in crucial areas. Before I tell you what some of those areas are, I need to address the words “fail” and “failure,” because they are loaded. 

When I bluntly state that someone failed to do something, I merely mean they did not take a certain action. Consequently, they didn’t achieve a desired result. This does not make them a complete and utter failure as a human being.


When people fail to do something we assumed to be of importance to them, it tells us two things. It tells us something about our personal values and work ethic, and it tells us something about the other person’s motivation.

Let’s say I give one of my students a certain task, and he or she keeps putting it off, or puts very little effort into it. In my experience this has little to do with a lack of time or laziness. Unless there’s an emergency, those who are truly dedicated will always find the time and the energy.

The real reason for the delay or the lack of enthusiasm has to do with motivation. Motivation is the fire that feeds the engine.

To find out what drives someone, here’s the question to ask: 

“Why is X, Y or Z important to you?”

If the “why” isn’t strong enough, people are more likely to slack off or give up. This often manifests itself in small things. Some people start showing a lack of attention to detail. Some will rush to get the job done. Others are easily distracted. Over time, this adds up, and it points to the fact that someone’s heart is not in it.


I often compare a freelance career to tending a vegetable garden. A garden can’t be rushed. It needs to grow organically. If you don’t seed, water, or weed, you’ll never enjoy the fruits (and veggies) of your labor. 

If you don’t take good care of your garden, that’s easy to see, but what clues tell me you’re struggling as a freelancer?

I often see a failure to:

  • take the initiative
  • get out of the mindset of a hobbyist
  • set clear and realistic goals
  • have enough seed money to fund and grow your business
  • invest in a professional work space, (continued) training, and quality equipment 
  • define what makes you stand out from the rest
  • focus on finances
  • set decent rates
  • find multiple pipelines to generate job leads
  • build a professional network
  • follow up and follow through
  • have a long-term strategy
  • update your website and portfolio
  • check your work before sending it out
  • be active in social media
  • promote and market your business professionally
  • take good care of your body
  • surround yourself with supportive, knowledgeable, and nurturing people
  • be there for those who support you
  • be appreciative
  • be accountable
  • be patient and persistent
  • be flexible and open to feedback
  • realize your life is more than your job
  • learn from the things that go well, and from the things that don’t go so well



That very last point takes us to the fourth step of Robbins’ Ultimate Success Formula: “Notice what’s working or not.”

Like Robbins, I will ask my students: Are you getting closer to your goal, or farther away? Are you taking advantage of the feedback you’re getting? 

It’s okay to make mistakes, but if you don’t learn from them, you’re likely to repeat old patterns. 

If you fail to learn, you learn to fail.

Now, in spite of what some people may tell you, there is no secret code that will open the magical door to unlimited freelance success. Success depends on so many factors, and not all of those factors can be influenced by you. But remember this: 

Life does not reward intentions. It rewards action.

The daily decisions you make or fail to make, will propel your career forward, or move it backward.

So, the next time you’re presented with a serious opportunity, carefully weigh your options, and take a hint from William Shakespeare by asking yourself:

“To do or not to do,

that is the question!”

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

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photo credit: Eline via photopin (license)

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About the author

Paul Strikwerda

is a Dutch-English voice-over pro, coach, and writer. His blog is one of the most widely read and influential blogs in the industry. Paul is also the author of "Making Money In Your PJs, Freelancing for voice-overs and other solopreneurs."

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Career, Freelancing

14 Responses to The Mistake You Don’t Want To Make

  1. Pingback: Here's What You've Missed | Nethervoice

  2. Paul Garner

    What can I say, but that you’ve given us a wonderful blog with extremely useful info once again, Paul! I’m pinning that list to my monitor and getting to work. Thanks!


    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Is that how you intend to monitor my advice? I’m afraid it will make me a very loud speaker!


    Paul Garner Reply:

    It is indeed sound advice!


  3. Kireema Sprowal

    I have recently purchased “Making Money In Your PJs” and can’t put it down. Right now I am in the process of learning more about the industry and practicing day and night. I happened to come across Mr. Strikwerda through a YouTube video he placed. Soon after that I went to his page and have been a follower ever since, which has been about 3 weeks now. What cemented my dedication was a response written back to me after emailing Mr. Strikwerda with me honestly not expecting anything back realizing how busy that he is. That meant the world to me at the time and I will never forget it. I’m still saving the money for coaching lessons and just want to say that I believe Mr. Strikwerda is a priceless jewel for any newcomers to this industry. I am lucky to have found about him first and PLEASE BUY AND READ HIS BOOK!!! The information is priceless.


    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Many thanks for your enthusiastic endorsement of my book and my blog, Kireema. Comments like yours inspire me to keep on writing each and every week.

    At the beginning of my career I was fortunate to be surrounded by people who have shared their time and expertise with me. All I do is pay that forward, hoping it will make a difference for anyone willing to take my advice to heart.

    Enjoy the final chapters of my book, and have fun as you practice your skills as a voice-over!


  4. Debbie Grattan

    I feel like a broken record, telling you each time, that you’ve (to use a sports reference…) “hit it out of the park” with another blog. Terrific information here.
    And a word on “failure” that I just recently picked up (from one of my client’s blogs). Looking at “failure” as “feedback” can be a much more positive way to re-direct one’s action. That way, we’re not discouraged when we fail to reach whatever goal we’ve set. We just learn to adjust for the next attempt.


    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Who knew that broken records could make such beautiful music? I never get tired of listening to it.

    As a student and trainer of Neuro Linguistic Psychology, one of the presuppositions (a.k.a. useful beliefs) I teach my classes is “There is no failure. Only feedback.”

    That’s why I put so much emphasis on learning in the last part of my blog post. The only “failure” there is, is the failure to learn from our experiences.


  5. Howard Ellison

    What a wonderful checklist, Paul! 25 lines to pin above the do-list and quit procrastination.


    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    You know what they say about procrastination. Best to put it off… indefinitely.


  6. Bill Johnston

    Paul, it’s amazing how much content you can put into a short piece. Especially valuable is your translation and granulation of Robbins’ dicta into concrete, easily understandable “lanterns” that light the path to achievement of one’s goals.


    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    I’m only content with my own writing if I can put some serious content into my blog posts. Thank you for your compliment!


  7. Debbie Irwin

    Great post.
    I love the checklist manifesto!
    Will direct newcomers to it so they can see for themselves that ‘that’s all there is!’


    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Thank you, Debbie. Glad you liked it!


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