Myth Exposed. The Lie We Learned About Education, Credentials and Success.

Average read time: 12.16 minutes. Highlights 2.14. Long, but my most valuable article ever. It’s what I wish I knew twenty years ago.

I noticed her from across the bar. She stood out with her long legs and blond hair. She would have easily fit in at Hugh’s house–where the men wear pajamas.

When she walked up, I could barely hear what she said over the music. We were at a nightclub in Vegas, where unless you’re on the list, the suckers wait two-hours to get in.

I will get to the business and marketing in a bit…but first let me tell you this story…it’s good gossip, so let’s keep it between us.

Will you buy me a drink,” she asked.

I rolled my eyes and turned towards my buddy.

She walked around and wedged herself between my friend and I, obviously annoyed by my attitude.

Can you believe this girl?” I asked, loud enough that she would hear.

What’s your problem?” she demanded, obviously used to being the center of male attention in Las Vegas.

He doesn’t buy girls drinks,” my buddy said, feeding off of my attitude.

You don’t?” she asked with a confused look.

But you can buy us a drink,” I said.

Um…ok!? What do you guys want?” And then the lady resembling playmate, bought us a round of drinks. We spent the rest of the evening together and dated afterwards.

I did everything “wrong,” and it worked! This was my first lesson in marketing…I mean dating.

Sex is Marketing

Everyone must learn and master marketing, no matter what field or position you’re in. Business owners, entrepreneurs and even employees.

Everything you’ve been taught is wrong!

I’m going to dispel a myth. It may piss you off, but that does not make it untrue. 

It’s foolish to bury our heads in the sand and wish reality were different.

We can either learn and adapt, or be angry and do nothing. It’s your choice.


I was fresh off a divorce. Out on the “scene” for the first time ever.

I married my high-school sweetheart. And unless you consider copying her homework in class as dating, I had never experienced the dating scene. At least not back then.

After my divorce, I was out on the “prowl” trying to figure this thing out. After being in such a long relationship, dating didn’t make much sense. To be honest, girls still don’t make much sense, but that’s another subject 🙂

I did what you’re supposed to do. I was a nice, bought drinks, offered dinner, and even lifted weights –every guy knows that if he can bench press 325 pounds everything will fall into place, right?

Doing what we’ve been taught will work once in a while, but rarely do girls notice these things. 

And it doesn’t matter which “type” of girl you’re seeking. If you do what everyone else does, no one will notice you.

What does a playmate have to do with your job or business?

It wasn’t until I was frustrated that I accidentally stumbled upon what really works. You see, I didn’t plan that stunt with the “playmate” in the bar. The reality was I had already been blown off a few times during that night.

In my naiveté, I discovered that some girls go to bars to get guys they don’t know, or intend to talk to, to finance their evening—silly me. Annoyed, I reversed the roles by accident.

Without realizing it, I got her attention in a way none of the other guys had. Then, with her attention, I sold her on my benefits. We usually begin selling our features before we have their attention. That always fails.

Good marketing connects someone with a need to someone who has the solution.

It’s difficult for these two people to find each other. The market is cluttered with too many messages competing for the same attention. Good marketing solves this. 

Are you seeing the connection yet?

The Lie You Tell Your Kids

If you are the best at what you do, you will rise to the top.”

Unfortunately, this is not true. Not even slightly, and it’s a disappointing discovery. How many times have you seen an extremely attractive woman with a less than desirable guy? A guy with no future, not even a nice guy, and wondered, how in the world did he get together with her?

It happens all the time but we refuse to believe the world does not operate from the lens we want it to, so we demonize the action?

He must have lots of money.” Occasionally that’s the case. But often that’s not it.

The truth is, that guy did a better job of marketing. He was able to get through the clutter and capture her attention.


Year after year, Coke out sells Pepsi, yet in test after test, people enjoy the taste of Pepsi more.



Who do you think is the best financial advisor in the world?

Suzie Orman?

Is she the most skilled, knowledgeable or even most qualified? Does she have the most credentials? Frequently at financial advisor conventions, she is criticized as a poor financial advisor, but she clearly is the most well known and the best marketer in the industry.

If Coke sells better, Suze Orman is not the most qualified, and the best man does not always get the girl, why do we believe that “If you are the best at what you do, you’ll be successful.”

Origins of a Myth

Our parents, and a failing education system, have taught us that success comes from good grades, degrees, and climbing ladders. 

Schools want you to believe the more degrees, credentials, and letters after your name, the more successful you’ll be.

The graph below depicts median lifetime earnings based on formal education. These results taken in isolation make it appear there are huge benefits to formal education.

On average, someone with a professional degree will earn more than a high-school dropout, but that does not mean pursuing higher formal education will result in more income or higher levels of success.


There is truth in the data on education and income, but it is misleading. It leads you to believe that formal education is THE path to greater income. I argue that it is NOT the most direct path. 

This data ignores training in areas outside of formal education; for my purposes here, marketing and sales.

The college = success myth is the result of fabulous marketing from the education system itself. It’s in the best interest of schools to indoctrinate students into believing that myth to keep the bureaucracies running.

It is also what we WANT to be true. It is easier to believe what we think is fair and just. Often when we discover things are unfair, we refuse to accept them.

Frank Kern, a multi-millionaire consultant to coaches and experts, said “The people who are professing to be experts, telling you what you can and can’t do in life and how to do it, are a bunch of fucking jackasses. The model that society teaches you to become successful is highly flawed.”


Marketing and sales are the most important life skills you will ever learn. No other skills will lead you to greater success — no matter how you measure it. The perfect spouse, career advancement, money or happiness.

I’ve testified many times in court as an expert witness. Interestingly the legal definition of an expert is one who has more knowledge of a subject than a lay person. That degree of knowledge always seemed thin to me, but it’s what is necessary in a court of law.

When you apply that measure to your profession, it doesn’t require all that much to provide your services. Just how much expertise does it really require competently handle your clients’ needs? Look at the chart below.

Your customer’s knowledge vs. all available knowledge

This chart is a visual depiction of the skills required in any given field. The chart is not real data, just arbitrary numbers to illustrate a point. Here is the break down.

  1. Red bar depicts your customer’s knowledge level of your field
  2. Blue is the minimum knowledge required to perform the job, or pass entrance exams (Bar exam for example)
  3. Your present skill level
  4. Purple is the leader in the industry. The top guy. Smartest in the field
  5. The bottom turquoise colored bar represents all available knowledge in the field


To bring this from abstract to real, let’s use your gardener as an example. He is operating in the green bar in the gardening field. He mows your lawns, trims your trees, and pulls the weeds.

He even knows the right fertilizer to use and he has set the sprinkler timer after you’ve tried and failed. He does a good job and you’re happy.

He could return to college and study the science of blending two plant species so that your red roses, mixed with white ones, turn pink. It would take him four years of college and a degree to become “certified” to do this, but you don’t care about this. You just want your lawns mowed. If you wanted pink roses you’d go to Home Depot and buy them.

If he continues as a gardener, will his business and income grow by advancing his gardening skills or by learning how to attract more customers?


Maybe that example was too blue collar. 

Imagine if the playmate in the bar bought you a drink, and in another bar a Chippendale is buying your spouse a drink. Then imagine that you both decide to skip into the sunset with your new lovers. 

It’s time to hire a lawyer — Yes, the wort part of a divorce, I know. 

You agree to a divorce and hire an attorney to make your fantasies legal. You want to split everything 50/50 and just need it written up.

Do you need a lawyer with twelve different sets of three letter initials after her name? Do you care if she has a PhD, MBA, or other fancy titles?

Most say no. Consumers will assume she is minimally qualified simply because she is a lawyer. 

Do you check the credentials of your doctor? Most do not.

Here is where this all comes together.

If the gardener example seemed obvious to you, then why aren’t you spending more of your time and energy learning and implementing marketing?

The reason is because it’s fun to learn more about your field. It’s comfortable, but not usually profitable. 

You entered your profession because you enjoyed the subject, so you have a natural tendency to want to learn more about your craft.

Professionals in all fields spend more time perfecting their craft then they do becoming better marketing and sales people. This is a huge mistake for you and your clients.

For the most part, after you reach a certain level of expertise, there are diminishing marginal returns for the clients’ benefit and your income. You have to keep up to date, but don’t waste time learning things you’ll likely never use.


It’s equally important for employees to learn this way of thinking. You need to learn how your boss and customers think. You will advance faster than anyone else in your organization if you learn sales and marketing.

According to Michael Ellsberg, “There’s no better way to rise up the ranks of your organization than bringing in new business, or coming up with ideas that bring in new business. Not in your job description? Too bad, learn it if you want to advance faster.”

Marketing Mentality

By becoming a better marketer you will provide your prospects and customers with a better experience.

Marketing is a mentality. It’s a worldview that puts customer’ emotional reality first, and inquires deeply about their needs, wants, and desires.” Michael Ellsberg, the author of Education of Millionaires.

The majority of the value that most service providers offer is not in-depth technical skill. That is a percentage of it, but the bulk of the value is in influencing your clients to make good decisions. 

The core of marketing is understanding human psychology and influence.

Why do you think most people hire personal trainers? Is it because of their knowledge of kinesiology, nutritional science and exercise technique? I’ve been in that industry for years  and I can tell you for sure, the answer is no.

Everyone already knows they need to eat less and exercise more. However, they don’t know how to motivate themselves to do it. That is what they need you for.

The financial planning industry is no different. Spend less, save more. Easy right? 


It’s very hard to implement especially with competing psychological priorities for their money. 

In every industry, there are the technical details that people hire experts for, but the overwhelming majority of the value service providers offer is influence.

Still don’t believe me? Schedule an appointment with your doctor, the high paid guy that went to school for 500 years or something. 

Before you leave he will tell you to exercise more and watch your diet (now you owe me for an office visit).

When you become a marketing expert, you will learn to shift your perspective your from your angle to your customer’s view. You will discover what they want and need, and you will deliver better services.

Your reach will expand and you will help more people.

The majority of service providers enter a profession first out of a desire to help people; second to make money. 

If you’re not able to gain attention, and demonstrate the value you offer, they will not hire you, nor will they benefit from your services.

Are your ready to develop your marketing skills? 

HERE is the Greatest Gold Mine of Business Marketing Advice I’ve ever shared.

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23 Replies to “Myth Exposed. The Lie We Learned About Education, Credentials and Success.”

  1. Well said Chuck. I like to say that gaining credentials in your field helps you to better serve your clients yet if you don’t know how to market your services you won’t have many clients.

    1. I agree with you Suzanne. There is no doubt that improving your skills in your field is a good thing. Sometimes we get stuck into only working on that thinking wrongly that will bring in more business when that alone will not. Thanks for your contribution.

  2. Just love your example to illustrate your point:) 

    It works ALL the time!!!!
    It is incredible once you understand how others think the influence you can have on them:)

    Just like the saying; Seek first to understand, than to be understood!
    Works like a charm!

  3. I always find it funny when someone claims to be an expert on a topic, but it is clear they have no idea what they are talking about. It is clear by your use of analogies that you understand exactly how to communicate to people. Well said all around.

  4. Chuck,

    I’ve heard your presentation on using Social Media at an ACA conference. I am so looking forward to this one! 

    I’m glad to hear of your successes and wish you continued success as you leap forward!

    Thanks for sharing with us,


  5. Love the post Chuck! As the author of “The Single Guy’s Survival Guide” I gotta say that your pickup technique was dead on. Marketing is a funny thing. I’m a marketing consultant and I’ve got more business than I can handle right now.. but I’m so busy and so close to my own business that my branding and marketing is a complete mess.

    1. I didn’t know you wrote that book. That’s interesting. Funny thing about the “pick-up technique” is that once you figure out “The Game,” you get married 🙂 Wish I knew that stuff in high-school. LOL

  6. I could not have said it better myself Chuck. When the “Marketer” turns into the “Marketed” the spoils go to the victor. They all must pay. Great article.

  7. One of the best post I’ve read in weeks.

    I love reality checks. And this article offers several.


    Joe Mobley

  8. Great article. Really resonated with me. A lot of my friends are considering going back to school to get an advanced degree, but it’s really because they think that’s what they have to do to earn more money and advance their careers. We’ve all been trained that it is the only way. But, as you wrote, it’s best to be different and not do what everyone does.

    In my own life, I changed careers by transitioning from journalism to business writing and eventually to search engine optimization. Once I was writing for businesses, it was natural to learn search engine optimization as that was the best way to use my writing skills to help them make more money. And rather than needing to get an advanced degree, all it took was the guts to try something new, a few months of self study, and the desire to keep reading and learning more about it.

    1. So true:
      “And rather than needing to get an advanced degree, all it took was the guts to try something new, a few months of self study, and the desire to keep reading and learning more about it.”

      Courage means more than anything!

  9. Since my skills are not taught in school as a young girl I had to persuade my mentors to train me. Without the ability to “market” myself I would have never been able to demonstrate my skills and glean information from those holding their cards close to the chest. I’m very good at what I do but as you explain it’s just one piece of the puzzle.
    Love how you pluck out this hidden truth about education and methodically show us how to navigate through this maze of being “marketed to.” Thanks 🙂

  10. Chuck,

    This article is spot-on. I have many very successful friends. Among them, the “moderately successful” are those that went to school, got advanced degrees, have very good-paying jobs and are very stable. Among the “wildly successful” people I know, virtually all of them are entrepreneurs (in numerous fields and disciplines). Most of them do not have advanced degrees, and many of them either didn’t go to college, or just sort of “floated” their way through college with no direction. But one thing that all of them have in common — without fail — is their ability to sell. Now, I’m not necessarily talking about “salesmen” in the truest sense. But these people know how to sell themselves and their ideas. They are engaging and captivating, and are generally fun to be around. And they all found ways to capitalize on that special skill.

  11. It’s equally important for employees to learn this way of thinking. You need to learn how your boss and customers think. You will advance faster than anyone else in your organization if you learn sales and marketing.”

    I think this is what Ramit Sethi endearingly calls the “Craigslist Penis Effect”…that is, everybody else sucks at it so you just have to learn a little to excel.

    As an entrepreneur, I feel the heat and the need to learn more about how to communicate value, define my customer, find my customer, position my services, etc. on a daily basis. But occasionally when I step back into the world of employees, it is encouraging just to see how few people really grasp this concept.

    The thing is, marketing (as it’s used to actually make sales in real busiensses) isn’t really taught in schools. I wonder if a decade from now schools will teach rigorous, deliberate practice-centered courses on selling and marketing (e.g. your grade depends on your profit and an essay on what you learned by semester’s end). I guess for now the best way to learn is finding the masters and getting in the same room.


    1. Thanks for the great comment Zack. Personally, I don’t think real marketing will ever be taught in schools. 

      The people that run schools and decide the curriculum have never, for the most part, ever left school, and thus, have no idea what it really takes to thrive in the real world.

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