Author Steven Pressfield: “It isn’t that people are mean or cruel. They’re just busy. Nobody wants to read your [expletive].”

getting people's attention

You have a powerful message to share.

But here’s the tragedy.

No one cares until you first get their attention.

You may be thinking, “This is so unfair… why should I focus on getting their attention? Shouldn’t the quality of my content speak for itself?”

If that statement resonates with you, I get it.  I used to have similar feelings.

That’s the plight of many creative individuals who want to share their message with others.

However, if you aren’t getting their attention, no one will receive your message.

I’d argue that you have a moral obligation to create great headlines.  

Because if you don’t, then people will never be able to receive your value.  

Getting People’s Attention Is Tough!

If you learn the art of creating a great headline, you’ll increase the chances of being seen and making an impact.

In Steven Pressfield’s book Nobody Wants To Read Your Sh*t, he explains, “Sometimes young writers acquire the idea from their years in school that the world is waiting to read what they’ve written.  They get this idea because their teachers had to read their essays or term papers or dissertations. In the real world, no one is waiting to read what you’ve written.”

It’s a tough pill to swallow.

I went to college for five years. And this was directly after high school, so there wasn’t a gap where I engaged in much “real” writing. 

And after all those years of schooling, I can attest to what Pressfield is saying. 

Post-graduation, I thought people would love to read my content. 

But I quickly had a wake-up call. Getting people’s attention was tough!

No one cared to consume it, despite how much time and effort I put into it.

Be Careful Of This Mentality: “Build It, And They’ll Come”

In marketing and product creation, there’s a common trap. It’s the mentality of “build it, and they’ll come.”

It’s this romantic notion that someone has nothing better to do than to read or buy your stuff.  

Now I know this sounds harsh. But realizing this will make you a better content creator, marketer, and entrepreneur (it did for me).

Pressfield speaks to this, saying, “It isn’t that people are mean or cruel.  They’re just busy.  Nobody wants to read your [expletive].”

Instead of getting bitter, realizing this can help us get better.  

Pressfield continues, “[…] your mind becomes powerfully concentrated.  You begin to understand that writing/reading is, above all, a transaction.  The reader donates his time and attention, which are supremely valuable commodities.” 

It’s crucial to earn the right to be heard.  When someone’s consuming your content, they’re spending precious time and energy.

They’re putting their attention in your hands. Let’s be intentional with where we guide it. 

For people to willingly give us their attention, we must first attune ourselves to their perspective. Put ourselves in their shoes.

Creating a headline focused on their experience gets their attention.  When they see the headline, you want them to be thinking, “Yep… someone like me would click on that.”

By doing this, we respect their time and energy.

Steven Pressfield’s 3 Answers For Getting People To Read Your Stuff

So once we focus on what your readers want, what do we do next? 

Steven Pressfield has three suggestions:

1. “Streamline your message.” In other words, make it simple and straightforward so that it’s easy to consume (and understand).

2. “Make its expression fun.”  Your headline should be so compelling that someone would be crazy NOT to click on it.

3. “Apply that to all forms of writing or art or commerce.”


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