Get FREE tips to create the business you really want

Why Investing in a Terrible Program Is Great for Your Business and Yourself

Post image for Why Investing in a Terrible Program Is Great for Your Business and Yourself

We’ve all done it: invest in a product or program that left us disappointed, angry, or down right pissed off.

We feel let down, frustrated, and resentful. And we don’t like to be let down and certainly don’t like to feel angry.

What if I told you that terrible investments were great for your business and for yourself?

You’d probably think I was crazy. We think terrible products, programs, and coaching mean wasted time, money, and energy. You’re probably wondering how there can be an upside to this.

There is, and I’ll show you how to find the gold in your disappointments. Because there’s lots there waiting for you.

Your Terrible Investments

First, think about an investment you made that left you feeling disappointed, let down, frustrated, angry, or resentful.

If several come to mind, pick one for now.

Next, grab pen and paper and list all of the ways that investment failed to meet your expectations. Invite your petty self to come forward and say what you’re really thinking – even if you’ve been a little afraid to admit it. Don’t try to be enlightened or high-minded. Be truthful no matter how ugly it is. You don’t have to share the list with anyone.

Are you in the mix of ugly emotions? Perfect! That’s exactly where I want you to be. I promise, though, that you won’t stay there for long.

Stick with me. The gold mine is right below the surface.

Why This Is Great for Your Business

Now, look at your list of ways the investment failed to meet your expectations.

Start with the first item on the list. Ask yourself, “How can I make sure this never happens in my business?”

One by one, you’re going to work through the entire list and transform your business. I want you to make sure that failure point that left you angry never happens to your clients or customers.

For example, I was frustrated by a past investment because I expected it was going to be very intimate, but it turned out to be rather impersonal. I asked myself how I could take the personal element up a notch with my one-on-one clients. I came up with two very specific action steps that I immediately implemented. That was great for my business.

In another case, I invested in a coach who I expected to over-deliver (because that was how she advertised her work). Instead, I felt like she barely met minimum expectations, let alone over-deliver. I was very disappointed and at the end, resentful. I took this as a lesson for my own business and started asking myself how I could up the ante with my clients and really deliver for them. I strategized some very specific ideas to implement. This, too, was great for my business.

In essence, I used my bad investments to show me exactly how I could do better in my own business. I loved that this exercise challenged me to up my game. Tweet that!!

(I’m purposefully not sharing the specifics of how I have made coaching more personal or how I upped the ante, because it would eliminate the surprise factor for my clients, and surprises are fun! Also, most of what makes this exercise so powerful is determining what would best suit your clients and customers, as opposed to simply implementing what I decided to use for my business.)

Step through each frustration point for every terrible investment you’ve made, and see how you can use them to transform your business. That’s where the gold is!

Why This Is Great for Yourself

I’m thrilled that you’re on board with the idea that bad investments can be great for your business. Things are now going to get even better as I show you how bad investments can also be great for yourself.

Return to your list of the failed expectations from one of your terrible investments. You’re now going to ask yourself how you contributed to that failed expectation and what you can do to avoid it in the future.

Yes, this is about turning the table and looking at yourself. It’s not easy work, but I know you have personal development chops to do it, so stick with me!

For example, I invested in a program that I felt didn’t live up to the price tag. After I took action from a “great for my business” perspective and saw how I could improve things for my customers, I looked at how this was great for myself. More specifically, I looked at how I contributed to my own disappointment. Here’s what I found.

This program offered a live Q&A component and an online private forum, but I never participated in either. I was afraid that my questions would sound stupid, so I stayed quiet, missing out on the personal help I could have received had I asked for it. If I had taken full advantage of the program and attended the live calls and joined discussions in the online forum, I bet that the cost of the program would have felt like a bargain. Instead, I felt like it was a ripoff… and it was my fault. Ouch!

Turning the tables and seeing your own contribution to the frustration isn’t fun, but it can totally transform your perspective. And as the self-aware, go-getter, world-changer you are, this kind of work is essential.

Your willingness to be honest with yourself will help you move out of the disappointment, frustration, resentment spiral and into a more productive arena.

Where to Go from Here

You’re now equipped with the steps you must take to make even the most terrible investment a great one for your business and yourself.

As always, I want to hear from you. Tell me…

Have you invested in something that turned out to be a disappointment? Looking at that investment through this new lens, why was it great for you or your business?

What did you learn and how did you or will you use it to transform your business and yourself? Use this opportunity for some good ‘ol self-reflection and share your insights and a-ha’s below.

To be clear, this isn’t a place for complaining, victim-thinking, or talking smack about someone’s program, product, or coaching. Please don’t list the specific names of coaches or programs here, because that’s not what this is about. This is about self-growth and learning, and I can’t wait to hear what you’ve discovered.

I’m excited to read about your a-ha’s in the comments below, because we all grow when we share and learn from one another.

If you enjoyed this post, sign up for updates... It's FREE!

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kushla Chadwick

Hi Jenny. Great question. I flew from Australia to the US for an event once and we were asked to introduce ourselves to 3 people we hadn’t met yet and since it was a break and the speaker seemed to have a moment, I introduced myself. He didn’t seem so impressed though, lol and probably a liitle annoyed.

And it was not a big deal – logically I get in hindsight that he was probably reviewing his notes or was hungry or whatever … now that I actually speak, I get it BUT, the funny thing is that from the 5 days I spent learning at the event, which I loved … thats always the first memory that I have of this speaker now, when I think of him and so I haven’t invested in anymore of his stuff.

So I guess the lesson for me, that has really helped me, is that when I ‘show – up’ for anything, whether it’s a live event or webinar or one-on-one – be prepared to be there 100% for my clients and be mindful of my attitude.

Cheers Jenny!



2 Jenny Shih

It is interesting how little things like that stick with us for a long time. I know my brain tends to hang onto those forever, too!

One thing I realize every time I do that to someone (hang onto a negative memory about them) is realize that I’m not always perfect, either. I know I’ve had moments of impatience, distracted attention, and frustration that resulted in me writing an email with a curt tone, not being as friendly as I want to be, or not giving someone the attention I should have. I can hang onto all of my shortcomings, too, or I can let them go and realize we’re all human!

Thanks for sharing your story here. I love that you strive to always be mindful and attentive, and remember, you’re human, too :-)


3 Leah

I have never invested in a really terrible course, but I have been shocked by the price of many courses out there. I understand the kind of work that goes into creating these courses, but digital programs are inherently pure profit–and no one outside of the tight little internet marketing world is fooled by the big sticker price (which is great if you’re in the IM world–bad if you’re serving individuals and consumers).

Think about real people. Wouldn’t you be appalled if a set of Jillian Michaels workout video started costing upwards of $500, $1000, $2000? That’s what it feels like to me. “Here are some videos you’ll watch and only partly use, and here’s some random PDF documents with interesting information you couldn’t probably found on the internet.” When I started to come to this realization, I ditched the programs for a while and hired a figurative personal trainer for my biz–a brilliant coach who will be a real force in helping me succeed.


4 Sandy Galiano

Leah I agree. I am shocked by some of the prices of programs, especially when they are videos and PDFs without any interaction with the creator. It makes me feel sort of dumb having my paperback book for $15 and my eBook through iTunes for $9.99 when others are pricing digital books up to $200.

All I know is I’m not in it for the money. There are other ways, like Jenny suggests. :)


5 Jenny Shih

Love your honesty here, Leah and Sandy.

For the sake of discussion, I’d love to share another perspective, because I used to have the same thought as you about “pure profit.”

In creating the Deluxe Edition of Get Your First 1000 Subscribers, I really saw how much goes into a comprehensive program, even one priced at $199. For example, it takes a (paid) website, a designer, a coder, a transcriptionist, a videographer, a video editor, a shopping cart + merchant services account, an assistant, customer service, a copywriter, and a TON of time (100+ hours of my time, not counting the people I hired to help me) to create. I can’t imagine what something like Marie Forleo’s B-School takes to create (6 figures and 1000+ hours of her time). Sure, once you shell out the time and cash and create it, it’s profit. But it took a serious investment to get there.

Although, maybe you’re referring to some other programs with ridiculous price tags and zero “meat.” Since we’re not badmouthing here, I respect and appreciate that you didn’t call those programs out.

Part of what makes a Jillian Michaels’ DVD cheaper is that she has tremendous reach and major distributors that regular people like us don’t have. I’m not saying that justifies putting crap together and selling it for $100, $500, etc. Absolutely not.

I think this discussion is a great one because it allows us to see things through each other’s eyes. I forgot the perspective I used to have (same as yours) about digital programs. Now that I’ve created a big one, I see it from a new angle.

Of course, just because this is what I think, you don’t have to agree with me! These comments are all about dialogue. I’m curious what your thoughts are now. I’m open to hearing more.

And, of course, I also love that you invested in a coach to help you move your biz forward, Leah. :-)


6 Sandy Galiano

Thanks for your reply Jenny. Yes, I totally agree with you. I think the clarity I seek in programs is when they are clear about what they offer. I believe in investing in myself and my business. Perhaps the difference between $200 digital programs is the source. Considering the creator and their intentions makes a difference to me. For example, Jenny I paid for your program knowing its worth it because of what you already offer to me as a subscriber. I love that. there aren’t surprises (at least bad ones) if anything good surprises. More than ever, the consumer does “follow” someone first before purchasing. Indeed we put in our hard work not just in a program, book, or course with a price tag but great value in our FREE content.



7 Leah

I re-read my comment and it sounds pretty harsh. I shouldn’t have responded at 7:00 AM before my first cup of tea 😉

I totally acknowledge all the work (and risk!) that goes into creating a digital program and I’m not looking forward to all those expenses! However, I do think that over the life of a $1000 digital program, there’s a clear tipping point from breaking even to 90% pure profit. Yes, there are ongoing costs (hosting, video play, merchant services, customer service), but time, design, copy, video, PDFs, etc. are sunk costs.

Like I said, I haven’t yet invested in a terrible program. In fact, I’d call the handful of investments I’ve made to be pretty good.

Before hiring you, Jenny, I was looking around for some specific types of programs to fill in on my weaknesses. I shopped around, but I kept thinking, “This? For that price?” Instead of waiting around for the launch of this program or that one…and instead of buying and hoping something would be effective, I knew a personalized approach with a real person and real accountability would be more valuable for ME than more programs.


8 Jenny Shih

No sweat, Leah. I think you added a great point to the discussion and it was really good for me to hear that line of thinking for my own business – I’m glad you mentioned it!

And I love that you knew exactly what was right for you and your business. That level of clarity is really important. All too often I see one of two other approaches: investing in everything and spending too much money on learning too much information, or shying away from spending any money and never learning enough to grow the business.

I love how much clarity you have around what you need–one of the great things about you!!


9 Eva Rawposa

NO JOKE, Jenny, we do an exercise just like this in our teacher training! lol! I LOVE the way you think. 😉 Seriously though… why not make a habit of turning lemons into lemonade?! Love it!


10 Jenny Shih

I think you’re pretty right-on in the positivity mindset, too, Eva.

And is that lemonade sweetened with raw honey, agave nectar, or stevia? :-)


11 Dennisse

Hi Jenny,

I’ve taken several online courses and I’ve loved ALL of them. I’m really picky with the ones I choose to invest in and I’ve gotten so much out of all them.

But there was one course that I felt was really over-priced. It sold for right under $1,000.00 and the creator of it hyped it so much and the copy of it explained how you and your business really needed this and couldn’t afford to not take it.

I decided to buy it and was greatly disappointed in the lack of content. Although I did like the material, it never justified the price. I felt that type of course should have been sold for 1/3 of that price. The owner of it also wasn’t really there for us in the private forum and on the weekly calls like she had said she would. She also had the type of attitude that she was so full of herself and her attitude came across as she’s all about making money and my gut feeling of her was that she doesn’t care that much about helping others.

I have taken courses of all price points- some costs under $100 and others as much as $2,000 for a single course. And all the other courses I felt were priced right for the type and amount of material it contained.

This taught me to really look closely at the products and services I’ll be selling, and to price them accordingly. It also taught me to be there for my paying customers and to not leave them hanging.

I’m looking to keep doing what I do for the long run and it’s all about repeat business. So if I can keep my customers happy, I know they’ll also buy my future products. And another thing to keep in mind is that people will talk about your products and services- whether they had a good or bad experience.

At first I was so upset that I had wasted almost $1,000.00 and instead I could have used it on a different course but as time went on I realized that the lesson it taught me actually saved me money. For example, what if I was the one who over-priced a course? And many people ended up buying it. Now I would have several angry people at me who would probably talk bad about me to everyone they know and they would never buy anything from me ever agin because they feel that they could get something similar for much less elsewhere. This could potentially have costs me several thousand dollars and given my business really bad advertising. This is why I’m glad that I learned this lesson from someone else’s mistake and gratefully it was only a $1,000.00 lesson.


12 Sandy Galiano

The same thing happened to me with a program I purchased. The person hyped herself up and made all these promises only to turn out to be delayed, yes she delayed the program by a month. The small program of 3 women ended up being a group of 28 women!!!!

She didn’t do the things she said she would say:
-no support (social media, ideas into action)
-unavailable or absent (not replying to emails/messages)
-leaving me out of group calls…yes, she actually forgot about me.

I learned to fulfill my promises to those who purchase my program, even if it means I remind myself every day. I want to give my love and attention to ALL which means keeping the group size appropriate. Accountability is a must, for participants and myself.

I also learned to stay true to who I am. Sadly, the woman who’s program I purchased was about positive thinking and positive living, yet when I addressed my problems with her she responded late with insults and throwing the F bomb at me!!!! That’s when I asked for a refund. This was a HUGE lesson for me because I felt so terrible about it. I want to be and will be open to hear what others have to say even if I may not want to hear it. Feedback is great and being open to whatever comes my way will end up helping me and my program be that much more strong and worth it.

Loved this post!!!!


13 Jenny Shih

It’s always funny when we see the “real” side of people we look up to, isn’t it, Sandy? Sounds like that’s something you got to see for yourself.

For me, I always feel a huge let-down when something falls short of what I expect, and it’s part of the process of learning and growing, I’ve come to realize.

Thanks for being here and sharing your always-grounded, real, authentic self with us!


14 Maria

Totally unrelated to disappointing purchases but totally related to the “real” side of people: My recent experience in a meditation forum.

I wrote about my new morning habits of mindfulness, meditation, and journaling, and how much positivity they bring into my life.

One of the members responded by calling me a spammer, that it’s impossible to “be overjoyed” as I had stated, etc. He also mentioned how hard meditation is and that he cannot focus on his breath quite frequently.

This is when I thought that – obviously – with so much negativity it’s only natural that it’s hard for him to focus on his breath.

I didn’t expect that treatment in a meditation forum!


15 Jenny Shih

Seeing how your clients could look at your products and programs based on your negative experiences is a great way to set yourself and your business up for long-term success. Love your self-reflection and the opportunities you took to improve your business, Dennisse. Nice work!


16 Miriam Ortiz y Pino

Great post Jenny! I used to do the not participate fully and then wonder what happened thing myself. Glad I got over it. It had never really occurred to me to take the pondering to the how to change things for my own clients. I do it all the time with the stuff I do like about a program. I will have to try it.


17 Heather Thorkelson

Jenny, this is such a great post and an important one especially for people who are caught in the online program vortex! I wanted to add something here that is quasi-related: just as you can learn what not to do from taking other people’s bad programs, you can also learn from the things that leave you peeved in day-to-day business and commit to showing up differently. (the whole “do unto others” thing) An example from my own business is that when I launched my last retreat I had a number of random people whom had never interacted with me before contact me (a writing coach, a videographer, etc) and say, “Hey, your retreat looks amazing – I’d love to lend my skill set as a guest expert blah blah blah.” To which I responded that while I appreciated their interest, I chose my co-leaders/experts long *before* launch and that I need to be familiar with someone’s work before including them in a retreat program. I thanked them for their interest, asked them to forward me their website or a link to their work and said perhaps in future we can collaborate. And guess what the response was? Crickets. That’s right….nothing. Not one person bothered to respond with, “I totally understand, here’s a link to my site, would be great to work with you in future.” And like Kushla, it coloured my perception forever. If one of those people approaches me in future, I’m simply not open to working with them. It’s made me be very careful about how I communicate with people, ensuring that I thank people for their consideration, etc and acknowledge when acknowledgement is due. Thanks for a great post!


18 Sandy Galiano

Great reply about follow up and follow through!


19 Ana

I think that before you invest in a program, you should know a little about the coach beforehand. I had been following someone for several months before I enrolled in her business course, and was completely thrilled. She over -delivered. On the other hand, I took a design course from a person I didn´t know and was completely dissapointed.


20 John Chang

Wow, this post is so powerful because I’ve been struggling with some of this for quite a while ..and some more recently / somewhat due to recent financial pressures.

Let’s just say that I’ve spent $4000-5000 on some courses and $100-200 on others, apparently just like a lot of the folks on this forum. Which one offered the most value – at least in terms of actual results or ROI (i.e. how much I made using the info vs. cost of training)?

Yep, you guessed it – the $100-200 courses!

Of course, you might say.. these expensive hyped classes are typically overbooked (so you get less attention) and what’s worst is that you often get sold again. (guru’s taking up class time to try & sell you MORE training.. errr, really?!)

And sure part of the process is learning to discern / sniff out the ripoffs from the real deals..

So, in a way there is really no wasted money. You’re still learning a valuable lesson – to tell a GOOD investment from a NOT-SO-GOOD one!

Plus, guess what the cost of some of the most life-changing courses I experienced.. yep, you guessed right again.. FREE!

It was a free tango lesson in Golden Gate Park that put me on the path which led me to meet some of the most amazing people and ultimately experience some of the most incredible moments of my life. (book and major film coming soon!)

..and it was a free weekend seminar that made me realize how strong a calling the idea of speaking / coaching was. I just had no idea what my message was! Now I think I’m finally about there..

So, in the end like dancing tango there are no mistakes – only moments of inspiration and other lessons!


21 Jenny Shih

Thanks for joining the discussion here, John and sharing your experiences. It’s amazing the range of pricing and quality online and our individual experiences with all of them. Definitely a full spectrum!


22 MamaRed

Jenny, as always, an empowering AND informative post. As someone who has bought tons of courses and products (some costing as little as $7 and others $1500/month), it took me a long time to get past the pissoff and get real with myself. What did I do? Did I participate (many times, more than I like to admit to!) I got stuck and was afraid to ask for help. Then I started looking at my role in my choices, realizing I was so green around the gills at this marketing stuff that I “assumed” the higher price meant better. And, in some cases, it has been. In others, it was a bunch of hype and fluff.

I also learned that some folks think that adding ten zillion modules and tons of “bonuses” made their system or product more appealing. And I did too. Until I realized that opening an online course with a bunch of modules and a bunch of bonuses meant nothing unless a) I was ready for that particular training and b) I was the type of person who did well with that approach to training. After MUCH trial and error, and many hits to the bank account (can ya say “slow learner” Grin), I realized that isn’t a good approach for me. I get caught up in trying to read/listen to everything and don’t implement. It has led to my next DO-ABLE step approach with my clients. I do the big picture brainstorming, then find at least one DO-ABLE step they can complete in 24 or hours or less. Without all the ingredients from all the courses, I would never have realized this.

Now if I could learn how to price my stuff in that sweet spot (and had the money I already invested to purchase the support I want now…that’s next).

Many blessings


23 Jenny Shih

Great learnings, MamaRed! Love your honesty about your missteps.

I’m totally with you – if you’re going to purchase a program, do it! Work through it step-by-step. That’s a great way to get results, even if the program isn’t the best investment you’ve made – there’s got to be something in there you can learn.

Thanks for commenting here!


24 MamaRed

Yup, kinda silly to purchase it, not do anything, then say it was a bad course. There is always something to learn, even if it is what not to do! And boy, do I have a list of those (smile).


25 Maria


What an amazing coincidence! I actually just wrote about my experience investing in a bad software solution today.

What I learned is to cut back on assumptions. I started off assuming I needed the most fancy software solution – and ended up realizing that:

1. The fancy solution did not actually satisfy my needs.
2. I wasted 2 months trying to get the fancy solution to work (plus money).
3. A simple solution was just fine (and much cheaper).

Had I started off assuming that my new endeavor wouldn’t be that hard, then I wouldn’t have been immediately drawn to the fancy solution.

Sometimes we overcomplicate things. Because we believe that it couldn’t possibly be THAT easy.

Well, it might be! :)


26 Jenny Shih

Great insights on fancy versus simple. That’s certainly another trap we can get caught in. Thanks for adding that to the conversation!


27 Jen Vertanen

I love this discussion because I too have had amazing experiences that make me challenge myself on how to up my game as well as horrible (much-hyped) experiences that left me with a pit in my stomach (over the cost and waste of my time) as well as a burning in my belly to always try as hard as I possibly can to never over-promise and under-deliver (nod to my IT peeps lol).

Those less-than-optimal experiences taught me another valuable lesson :: always think very strategically in how I choose to invest money in my business. In other words – don’t just do it based on hype alone but with the lens of where am I realistically at in my business, what realistically is the next level for me to take my business, and does this course/person align with *my* specific needs.

I have saved countless $$$ and hours and now, with confidence, can truly say that I’m strategically making the right decisions on whom I decide to work with in taking my business to the next level and I’m 1000% certain this would not have happened without those (otherwise) unwise choices.


28 Jenny Shih

Yes!! Always think strategically about investments before making them. In fact, I did a video about that last year! Strategic investments definitely minimize the chance for a bad decision.

Thanks for adding that here!


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: