Complaining: the 3 bitch rule

Recreational complaining can be a fun way of bonding with people, but it’s a destructive habit and can turn frustrating situations into a full-on way of life. Some people even believe that focusing on negative aspects of your life create more of that negative aspect in your life, so complaining about your unreasonable and controlling boss will cause her to be even more unreasonable and controlling.

Like I said, I’m a skeptic, so I don’t know about that. But I think we can all agree that chronic complaining is really annoying and unpleasant.

My friend Jenn has a rule called “The 3 Bitch Rule.”

Not only is it a great way of preserving friendships (by not being that insufferably annoying person always complaining), it also can help you propel your life forward beyond the thing you’re complaining about.

3 Bitch Rule DinosaurHere’s the rule: If you complain about something three times, and you haven’t taken proactive action to resolve the issue, then you aren’t allowed to complain about it anymore. You must accept the situation as your own choice, and move on from complaining.

Trust me, friends love this rule, and they love to work on solutions with you.

If we take responsibility for where we are, and accept the reality of a situation, it’s essential that we stop complaining and start solving.


Action Steps

  1. Write down three things you have complained about recently.
  2. Come up with at least three possible solution to those items — and I mean things you can do, not anyone else.
  3. If you have complained to anyone else about these things (you know, the friend you always share these things with), go over the solutions with them and see what they think, and if they can think of any more.
  4. Start putting into action the best solutions.


My Action Steps (so you understand that I do this too)

Things I have complained about recently:

  1. Being overwhelmed
  2. Not having enough adventure in my life
  3. Lack of financial security
  4. Persistent checking of Facebook
  5. (I’m an overachiever) Lack of follow-through on projects I start / starting lots of projects without finishing them
  6. Not “having time to” meditate daily
  7. Not prioritizing exercise / my health


Three solutions to these items:

Being Overwhelmed

  • Meditating at least once daily, probably more
  • Starting and stopping at a consistent time every day / not having “freelancer” hours
  • Monotasking
  • Handing off projects that don’t have to be handled by me

Not having enough adventure in my life

  • Take up an adventure sport
  • Go on road trips / plan trips
  • Watch shows and read books about adventure (vicarious experience)

Lack of financial security

  • Making a big enough savings account that I don’t care / we would be ok no matter what
  • Creating diverse sources of income so no one source of income can go away and cause catastrophe
  • Not caring about financial security


I went to my friends asking for help working on the overwhelm part, and they said:

“I always try to ask myself – is anything really going to be different if this person has to wait 1 hour for my attention?” – Suzanne

“Either lightening the load with an assistant’s help or scaling back on of the two job’s scope to make one the ‘full time real job’ and the other an enjoyable side project as opposed to two full time real jobs.” – Roo

“Setting clear boundaries is difficult in practice but if it’s important to you, *you can rock anything*. If you are like me, your toughest customer is you. Sure, it may shift priorities in your goal timelines. But I assume no one’s going to die if you move most of your goals out to be a little nicer to yourself?” – Andrea

Making a mess of asking

“You might as well just ask” / “Just go for it?” / “What’s the worst they could say? ‘No’? That’s not so bad!”

Worm's personal purposeI have read and given this advice a hundred times. It’s good advice. Mostly.

We don’t even think to ask for what we want, because a lot of times, we feel like if we ask, we’ll get turned down. There’s something else we need to do first: There’s some credential we need to get; we need to shoot some photos first; we have to put together the pitch or the catalog first.

There’s a window of opportunity and we aren’t prepared to go through it just yet.

So the advice is to just go through it anyways — barge in there with who you are, let them tell you “no,” and maybe let them tell you “yes.”

Is this advice any good? Should you prepare? Or should you just wing it?

When we first started the business, I would reach out to press and retail shops hoping to get coverage or make sales. I look back on these awkward messages now and I cringe: Did I really send those crappy photos? Did I really spend so much time talking about the our business, and so little time talking about the products? Couldn’t I have spent a little more time crafting our offering so we didn’t seem like such amateurs?

These bridges are probably behind me. I can’t reach out to them again even though our pitch is much more refined and optimal.

I went for it anyways, and because of that, I have a whole bunch of cringe-worthy pitches to companies who were, frankly, out of our league at that time in our business.

Having done that – the thing most of us are not willing to do – I lived, and I’m here to share the results with you.

90% of those pitches went unanswered.
Of the 10% who got back to us, probably 8% said something nice like “No, thanks. We’re focusing on [xyz other thing] right now.”
Of the 2% who didn’t politely decline, we’ve had mixed results:

  1. One was our first wholesale account, Marion & Rose’s Workshop, in Oakland, California
  2. One was Cowboys & Indians Magazine, who featured us and opened a whole new channel for us (the cowboy crowd)
  3. One was UNFI, the largest natural food distributor in the US, who started carrying us

Not one said “Get your fucking act together, you amateurs!”

That’s our worst fear, right? Well, that or the silent dismissal of people who think we aren’t even worth responding to… which arguably, that 90% could be interpreted as (it sure feels that way) — though it’s important to remember that it actually isn’t that way, we just imagine it is.

And of those 90% of people who didn’t respond, we are free to follow up again once we’ve got ourselves differently positioned. In fact, that different positioning gives us a great excuse to follow up: “Howdy! I thought I’d reach out since we have this new product line / set of photos / because I saw you recently posted about [subject that is related] and found your post very insightful.” Be nice, but be persistent.

I can tell you from experience, it is non-fatal to act before you’re ready, and you might even get some great contacts and results out of it!

Lots of people supported me and said they loved my product, but where’s the $$?

“I don’t get it! All my friends said they thought my idea was great, but I launched and I’ve had basically no sales. WTF?” – Countless discouraged entrepreneurs

Any new venture is terrifying, and those of us who have the blessings of supportive friends and family often make the mistake of believing friends and family will become paying customers.

Sometimes friends and family do become customers, and that’s great (because birds of a feather flock together, and people want to be supportive, God bless ’em), but it puts incredible strain on friendships if you expect (and maybe even kind of demand) that your friends support your venture.

I have seen it, and it isn’t pretty.

That’s why things like marketing, press, and search engine optimization are so critically important to start right away

If you hope to have a business, you absolutely can’t lean on your friends and family to be your customers. You can make it available to them, but availability and pressure are very different energy.

The key is to cultivate a relationship with customers

If you’ve done your market research and you know the customers are out there, you have to set your business up in a way that will reach your (future) customers. You have to find people who love your product not just because they love you, but because they truly just love your product.

In fact, Facebook even penalizes businesses whose posts don’t get a lot of click-throughs and comments, so if you just beg your friends for a ton of page “likes” without any strategy, that can actually hinder your marketing efforts.

The world is mindblowingly vast, and millions upon millions of people are searching for products, services, and experiences that resonate with them. Is yours one of them? You have to get in front of those people so they can find you!

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is today.” – Chinese Proverb

All these things take time, money, or both. But you have to start somewhere, and sometime.

If you’re a new business just getting started, you may not have yet traversed the muddy bog of getting strangers to buy your products. It isn’t as difficult as you might think. Stay tuned for my small business marketing tips.