I’ll be honest. I’ve been discouraged and distracted the whole day. Wasn’t the most productive Saturdays I’ve had in the recent past. Skipped the gym, ate from out (which for me is mostly clean, but I prefer homemade food over others) and wasn’t in the best of moods to do anything else. So, I took a good solid 60-minute nap only to wake up wondering what’s next.
That, my friends, is a typical “pathetic” day for me. Sure, I did get through one of the biggest priorities, so it wasn’t all that bad. And yes, I did manage to knock off some other stuff off of my “list.” Including a couple of (return) calls to my friends.
The last conversation I’d had was an interesting one. More in the lines of “Sunil, you’re working too hard on all this. It’s time for you to think about monetizing your skills. There’s so much you can do to “build” yourself up. Implement and learn the rest on the way down.”
That’s one heck of a sound advise. I listened through it, thanked him and assured him that I’m on it! Courage, discipline, and humility kicking in. And I must say, he was partially right. There are two extremes when it comes to building a business or a side-gig or whatever big thing you’re dreaming up. The preparation phase and the execution phase.
The preparation phase is when you lay out the roadmap to reaching “competency” so that you can demonstrate your expertise and resourcefulness to others. The ones who can pay for the skills you have. This could range from a week, a month to a couple of years. I personally believe that if you become an expert in 6 months if you care enough to single-mindedly focus on that one thing.
The challenge with this phase is that some people (I used to be one of them) like to stay stuck in this phase forever! For valid reasons, of course! There’s no judgment, no objections, no rejections and it’s much easier than hustling. And all that is good. Just that it won’t get you paid anytime soon.
The execution phase is when you take a conscious step to spread out the word and actively reach out to people to demonstrate your skills. That means a lot of marketing, networking, social media and of course, good old “content marketing” to position you as an expert. If you’ve been in this phase, then we know that’s an insane time investment. Yet, we do it because everyone does it or you think it’s absolutely necessary in this dog-eat-dog world.
Fair enough. But what about your core skill? How do you find time to hone your craft further? Or you were stupid enough to think that there isn’t anything else to learn?
You know what the “right” answer is, yet deep down that isn’t the only “right” thing you should be doing. In fact, you’d go the extra mile to connect with the experts in the field and ask the ultimate question: “Hey, how do I position myself as an expert?” or “What’s the best way to market myself as an expert?” or some variation of it.
I read this great post by Ryan Holiday on Medium where he talks about the same topic (with elaborate details, of course)! He shares a story about an exchange between a young comedian and Seinfeld:
The comedian approaches Seinfeld in a club one night and asks him for advice about marketing and getting exposure.
Exposure? Marketing? Seinfeld asks. Just work on your act.
Ah. There! He said it!
No one pursuing an artistic career wants to hear what sits at the core of Seinfeld’s advice: Your work isn’t good enough.
I wouldn’t go that far, but it’s partially true. The road from competency to mastery can be and often is a lifelong journey. And you can’t market and expose your way to mastery. That’s a fact. Swallow it. Live with it. But most importantly accept it.
I know this sounds crude but I guess you’re better off that way than some random marketing advice. Let’s crack open those books, pick up the highlighter and slog away. The best is yet to come.
P.S. Boy! That was something. Guess what. Before I started typing I didn’t know where I was headed to. And I honestly felt giving it a skip just for one day. But after 278 days of not missing, I’d have felt heartbroken if I had indeed skipped. Glad I didn’t. And a great lesson for me as well. To keep creating art. Every day (for me, for you it could be something else).
P.P.S. Speaking of marketing, did you check out my late night post (that definitely sounds important, ain’t it?) I’d put up yesterday?