“Most successful entrepreneurs don’t begin with brilliant ideas – they discover them.” – Peter Sims
Sergey Brin volunteered as a guide for potential first-year students at Stanford.
Larry Page was considering Stanford for Grad school, and Brin was assigned to show him around.
They famously clashed heads about nearly everything during their first encounter.
But this wouldn’t stop them from making a revolutionary discovery.
The Stanford Digital Library Project: The Catalyst For PageRank
When Page officially arrived at Stanford, he chose computer scientist Terry Winograd as his adviser.
Sergey Brin was being advised by another computer scientist — Hector Garcia-Molina.
As fate would have it, their advisers — both Winograd and Molina — were running the Stanford Digital Library Project.
The goal of this project was to prioritize library searches online.
Brin and Page would collaborate on this project together.
As they searched for solutions, they realized that the best way to prioritize library searches online was to measure how many other citations referred to a source.
They found that you could analyze the number of incoming links to a page in the online library when you issued the correct query.
And they’d spend tons of time searching for the number of incoming links for different pages.
Why was this important?
The World Of Academia: Incoming Links Are Just Citations
This insight — measuring page quality by the number of incoming links — comes from the world of academia.
When publishing an academic paper, getting cited is one of the most important things that can happen.
Besides the original idea itself… the quality of published papers is primarily determined by the number of papers it cites, the number of papers that cite back to them, and each citation’s perceived value.
The “citation count” of a document would indicate the quality of the academic paper.
The significant insight that Page and Brin had was that incoming links were just a form of citation count.
This idea was the genesis of measuring page quality by the number of links it had.
These links served as votes. And the more popular each page, the higher the rank.
So Larry created a prototype web crawler to experiment with ranking pages, focusing on the number of links. Initially, he did this on the Stanford Site.
This is how the PageRank algorithm was born. And the rest is history.
Experiment With Your Ideas Before Committing To The Long-Term
In the beginning, Page and Brin weren’t trying to create a behemoth of a company.
And they didn’t start with a massive mission like “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
It became their mission as the company grew.
Their story shows you don’t need to have the perfect idea when starting out.
If you’re passionate about an idea, start experimenting with it and see what happens.
From there, you can decide if it’s worth pursuing in the long-term.
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.”
There’s this long-standing debate on whether it’s better to be a specialist or a generalist.
Is it more valuable to focus on one area?
Or should we gain a wide range of competencies in different domains?
British physicist David Deutsch – who has pioneered the field of quantum computation – has something interesting to say about this.
“It’s in the nature of foundations, that the foundations in one field are also the foundations of other fields…the way that we reach many truths is by understanding things more deeply and therefore more broadly. That’s the nature of the concept of a foundation… just as in architecture, all buildings all literally stand on the same foundation; namely the earth. All buildings stand on the same theoretical base.”
Imagine you decided to specialize in being a fitness expert.
After diving deep into that domain, let’s say you notice that there’s a small percentage of activities that lead to the majority of health issues. 20% of these causes lead to 80% of fitness challenges.
This is a powerful realization.
Instead of dabbling in activities that create a small impact on your health, you can focus your effort on activities that create exponential results.
This would be a great insight for you, helping you better prioritize fitness habits and routines.
But in reality, this 80/20 relationship goes beyond just your domain of focus. It applies to the world at large.
A few examples are:
20% of your relationships give you 80% of your satisfaction.
20% of your clients give you 80% of your headache.
20% of your daily habits are responsible for 80% of your productivity.
And you can extrapolate this idea into many other areas of your life.
You may be familiar with this mental model – Pareto’s 80/20 Rule.
By specializing in one domain, you can discover the underlying principles for how it works.
And as Deutsch mentions, the nature of foundations is that all domains can be connected to universal ideas, as all buildings stand on the same theoretical base (the earth).
The cliche of “jack of all trades” and its negative connotations are a result of people trying to become generalists first.
When you haven’t taken the time to understand at least one domain at its core, then being a generalist is pointless.
By focusing on the tip of the iceberg, you miss out on the depth and the essence of how something works.
If you want to become a polymath and successful generalist, it’s important to first specialize.
This will create the foundation for mastering different skills.
Tacit Knowledge: The Enemy Of The Modern Day Polymath
If you aren’t conscious of how you develop a skillset, then you’ll have a challenging time mapping it over to any new endeavor (holding you back from learning another skill effectively).
Tacit knowledge is when an expert has skills and is unable to explain them to others.
This idea is key to effectively specializing and diving deep (laying the foundation for being a polymath).
The term Tacit Knowledge is attributed to Michael Polanyi. In his book The Tacit Dimension, he describes it as the ability to do something without necessarily being able to articulate it or even be aware of all its dimensions.
It’s intuitive knowledge, like being able to ride a bike or drive a car.
Here are two more definitions of tacit knowledge:
“Tacit knowledge or implicit knowledge is the kind of knowledge that is difficult to transfer to another person by means of writing it down or verbalizing it.” – Wikipedia
“Knowledge that is informally acquired rather than explicitly taught and allows a person to succeed in certain environments and pursuits. It is stored without awareness and therefore is not easily articulated.” – APA Dictionary of Psychology
This is inconsequential for mundane tasks but detrimental for valuable skills and expertise.
It’s frustrating trying to learn from an expert who is unaware of how they achieved excellence.
It’s sort of like asking a musician for their best tips on learning guitar, and their response being, “Practice every day, persevere, and believe in yourself.”
Though this is true, it’s not particularly helpful.
And it can be even more frustrating realizing that you’re an expert with tacit knowledge!
However, if you have a process for becoming more conscious of the underlying foundation of your domain, then you’ll have a map at your disposal that can be used for future undertakings.
One of the most researched ways of applying this is what’s called “deliberate learning” or “deliberate practice.”
This is when you reflect on your knowledge and experiences. Examples of this include journaling, teaching, and content creation.
The process of articulating and codifying your experiences help you become more conscious of how you’ve learned a particular skill-set.
And with consistency, you’ll dive deep enough to discover the foundation of your given domain.
Deep understanding gives you the ability to map your knowledge and experience to new skills more effectively since the underlying models are the same (like the 80/20 rule).
As is the nature of foundations.
If you want to become a polymath and successful generalist, consider specializing in one area first.
How do you get someone to read your content and then keep coming back?
Having an audience that wants to continue consuming future content sets you up for success.
Your ideal prospect is checking their emails and browsing through their media platform of choice.
Then BAM. Your content pops up in their inbox or feed.
They begin consuming it. Then instinctively stop, scroll away, and exit the browser.
Eh… I’m just not interested.
It sucks when people unsubscribe, lose interest, or stop coming back to consume your content altogether.
You can never make another first impression.
And at the beginning of any relationship, there’s a higher risk that someone will drop off. There isn’t much investment involved yet.
That being said, if we don’t figure out how to get people to come back and engage with our brand, then we’re losing someone who could’ve been a true fan and long-term customer.
You could lose them forever.
Though it’s possible to get people re-engaged, it’s typically much harder once the bond has weakened.
If you want to build a strong audience, then it’s important to help your audience form a habit of consuming your content.
In this post, I’ll be investigating two main points:
How to get people to consume your content and enjoy it.
How to create a satisfying experience so that they form a habit around consuming your content… turning into a true fan.
Having a strong audience is a valuable business asset. And more specifically, the quality of that relationship to them.
And good indicator that your relationship with your audience is good and healthy is if they’ve formed a habit of consuming your content.
If they keep consuming it over and over again, week after week, then you’re in good shape.
This directly pours over into developing your business’ customer lifetime value and increasing retention rates.
The Tale Of Two Male Cichlids: Why Winning Reinforces More Winning
By creating a satisfying environment, you can facilitate small wins that reinforce desirable outcomes.
The African cichlid (Astatotilapia burtoni) naturally lives in Lake Tanganyika in Eastern Africa.
Within this species, there are two types of male cichlids. Let’s call them:
Territorial Cichlids (“T” Cichlids)
Non-territorial Cichlids (“NT” Cichlids)
The NT Cichlids aren’t the luckiest bunch of fish.
They’re subordinate. Since they don’t have much territory in the lake, they have a disadvantage in gathering food. And since they look dull and colorless, they aren’t an attractive option for reproduction.
In comparison, the T Cichlids have more territory. These dominant males have advantageous resources for food consumption.
And since their various fins and gill cover are dressed with brighter colors of yellow and blue, they’re an attractive option for the female cichlids. They have a reproductive advantage.
This has significant consequences for the NT Cichlid. Being both colorless and lacking territory means they aren’t in a good position to reproduce or gather as much food (compared to the dominant cichlids).
So with the T Cichlids hogging all the resources and acting more aggressive, it seems that the NT Cichlids are doomed and won’t live very long. Survival of the fittest.
However… there is one disadvantage for the T Cichlids.
One day a seagull comes diving into the water and scoops up one of these dominant cichlids.
Being so brightly colored with territory near the water’s surface makes them vulnerable to predators.
Suddenly, there’s vacant real estate in the lake!
For the NT Cichlid, this poses an opportunity.
This subordinate fish takes advantage of the vacancy and begins occupying this new territory.
And something interesting happens…
The rise in social status (more territory) is the catalyst for rapid behavioral, physiological, and molecular changes.
This subordinate cichlid begins to switch phenotypes!
Its various fins and gill cover begins to change physically. This once boring and dull-looking fish now starts looking bright and more attractive to the female Cichlids.
It becomes more reproductively active. And with its new territory, it’s in a good position for consuming food.
Until, of course, another Seagull gets hungry.
We Naturally Want To Repeat Behaviors That Help Us Win
When an animal has won a few fights against a weaker opponent, it’s now much more likely to win future battles against stronger opponents.
Success breeds success.
In his book The Winner Effect: The Science of Success and How to Use It, Ian Robertson explains how this also applies to human nature.
Winning produces neurochemical changes inside of you.
Specifically, according to Ian Robertson, “Winning increases the dopamine receptors in the brain, which makes you smarter and more bold.”
Winning and feeling powerful switches on testosterone in the brain and body.
Then testosterone turns on the neurotransmitter dopamine. And this is an essential component for stimulating the “reward center” in the brain, responsible for feelings of pleasure and satisfaction.
But dopamine is responsible for much more than just motivation and “feeling good.”
Dopamine plays a vital role in learning comprehension and retention. Elevated states of dopamine help facilitate improved performance and heightened learning potential.
Winning is a positive feedback loop. The more it happens, the more motivated you are to pursue the behaviors that helped you initially win (reinforcing the feeling of satisfaction).
It’s like a performance-enhancing drug, except free and naturally available to all of us. When used strategically, this will help improve your skills, decision-making, and perceptual abilities.
It helps you become clear, focused, motivated, and more likely to take risks.
The inverse of the “winner effect” is when you keep losing.
When you keep losing, there’s a reduction of testosterone and dopamine in the body… decreasing your performance and intelligence.
Why would the body do this to us?
Well, there’s a payoff. One could argue that being more “submissive” prevents us from getting into future situations that could hurt us (or cost us our life) when we have a history of losing.
We see how this is valuable in more ancient times, but it oftentimes holds us back in modern society.
For example, experiencing this “loser effect” isn’t helpful when receiving constructive criticism. Unfortunately, many people can fall into the trap of interpreting feedback destructively and experience feelings of loss and failure.
If this is perceived as a loss, then your physiology will put you in an unresourceful state.
This winner effect is critical for habit formation. By winning, we naturally want to continue the behaviors that serve us.
Someone will only form a habit around consuming your content if you help them win and feel satisfied.
So I explained how this works with fish. But what’s an example of someone who’s benefited from this?
Do you find yourself putting off content? Or do you feel like you don’t have enough time to produce quality content?
Instead of publishing something that’s “good enough,” maybe you take minimal action (or none at all).
There’s this fear that others will judge and label it “low-quality.”
I get it. You want to produce valuable content. There’s this inner critic that’s saying, “Nope, this isn’t good enough yet.”
But if you don’t get into the habit of publishing content NOW, how will you reach your goals?
In this post, I’m going to share:
Insights around establishing and keeping a content creation habit.
Overcoming perfectionism so that you can begin making actual progress.
Why small habits lead to significant changes.
How Beethoven’s habits made him legendary.
And what a Harvard Linguist can teach us about making a content creation habit easy.
This will empower you to create quality content consistently and use content marketing to achieve your business goals around growth and profit.
Overcoming Perfectionism And Its False Promise Of Progress
I started learning about entrepreneurship in 2013. I had just graduated High School and, for the first time, seriously asked myself… “What do I want to do in life?”
Tim Ferriss’s 4-Hour-Workweek was my gateway into entrepreneurship.
And shortly after discovering him, I found this guy named Pat Flynn.
Pat Flynn’s brand is all about “smart passive income.”
This idea was intriguing to me at the time.
My impression was that you could create stuff and passively receive income without having to do much work. It seemed like magic.
Now, obviously it’s not that simple. But as a kid transitioning into adulthood, this seemed pretty cool!
So I began consuming Pat Flynn’s content, starting with his podcast episodes.
I began at the bottom, episode 1.
Then during episode 15, he shared how one of the best ways to get started with passive income was article writing for revenue sharing sites.
You’d create content for the site. Then depending on how much exposure you receive (and various other factors), you could end up getting a bit of passive income.
The site he recommended was InfoBarrel.
Now, this was back in 2013. I don’t recommend InfoBarrel now (and Pat Flynn wouldn’t either). Medium is the top site for this nowadays.
Since I was young and the idea of passive income was appealing (and the allusive promise of quick money), I naturally gave it a shot.
I created a couple of articles. Looked at my dashboard. And said to myself… “This stuff doesn’t work.”
I was starting college. So I decided to give up on creating content and focus my energy on schoolwork.
I’d intermittently re-visit content throughout college and occasionally write on social media or in forums like Quora.
Again, no spectacular results surfaced.
It wasn’t until after graduating college when I started to see the error of my ways.
This was 2019 and 2020.
As I started to look at entrepreneurship and value creation more seriously, it became obvious.
If I wanted to become successful, I needed to be consistent.
The standard advice was, “you just need to be disciplined.” Hustle.
Yes, this is true. But it’s a simple truth.
How can you ACTUALLY do it?
The answer came when I listened to a Tim Ferriss podcast episode with Scott Adams.
Scott Adams has a popular saying: “Losers have goals. Winners have systems.”
After this idea marinated in my mind a bit, I realized the cause of my problem.
I was too focused on the outcome, which ironically prevented me from getting ideal results.
What I needed to do was focus on the system. In other words, I needed to build quality habits.
By focusing on the outcome, I was becoming too idealistic. Perfectionism.
In 2020, I became increasingly aware of this perfectionism mentality inside of myself.
I wanted to overcome it. So I did something that I was deathly afraid of at the time.
A 30-Day Facebook Live Challenge.
I had a small group and decided for 30-days to jump on a Live Video and just riff on a topic.
This did a few things:
I couldn’t script out what I wanted to say because Facebook Live is more improvisational. You can have an outline or structure, but you can’t fully script it out in-detail.
I had to show up every day, even if I wasn’t confident in the quality of my idea. And this helped me break through this “perfectionism barrier” holding me back from creating content consistently.
Once a habit is established and you gain more experience, your confidence naturally increases.
And you become less resistant towards taking action.
It’s validating when someone consumes some of my content and shares how it’s impacted them.
And I attribute any impact I have to the habits I’ve been able to establish.
Why Small Habits Lead To Big Changes
“You should be far more concerned with your current trajectory than with your current results.” — James Clear
There’s a species of bamboo that doesn’t grow much for 3–5 years. It’s barely visible.
During this time, it’s building an elaborate root system. But once its root system is established, it can shoot up to 90 feet in just 6 weeks.
Without its root system, this growth wouldn’t be possible.
I find this anecdote powerful for habit formation.
This foundation is your habits. And your habits set the trajectory for whether or not you’ll attain your goals.
In Atomic Habits, James Clear explains why small habits make a huge difference.
He emphasizes the importance of getting 1% better each day. In the short-term, growth isn’t noticeable.
But here’s what happens over a year:
1% better every day for one year: 1.01³⁶⁵ = 37.78
In other words, engaging in a quality habit every day can result in you becoming 37 times better by the end of the year.
Quality habits are the compound interest of growth and improvement.
How impactful can your content become if you got 1% better each day?
How would your quality of content improve?
And how would this impact your business success?
Great content marketing is a matter of building habits that allow you to consistently create high-value content … and leveraging this to grow your brand.
How To Create Permanent Change: Identity-Based Habits
The biggest challenge is keeping a content creation habit long enough to start seeing some progress.
I’m currently writing this article in January. It’s time for people to make “New Years Resolutions.”
But I can’t stop thinking about how many people will fall back into old patterns after a couple of months (despite their initial surge of motivation).
Now I’m not joking or poking fun. I used to do this, so I know this pattern all too well.
Unless you get lucky, success doesn’t come immediately. And even if it does… would you have the skills and resources to sustain it?
So to ensure that success is inevitable and sustainable, we’ll need to make a habit permanent. And then improve it over-time.
One of the biggest insights I had reading Atomic Habits was that permanent changes occur when a habit becomes rooted in your identity.
We typically want to get the results without having to change who we are as people.
It’s easier that way.
Imagine someone wanting to eat healthier. So they begin thinking of habits that’ll help them achieve this.
Maybe they learn some recipes. Get some supplements. Create a meal-prepping schedule. And any other method that supports a healthy eating lifestyle.
But despite having good intentions and cultivating a specific routine that allows them to eat healthier, let’s say they don’t see themselves as the type of person who eats healthy.
It’s not “who they are” yet.
If there’s a conflict between the habit they want to develop and their self-concept, then making this a permanent habit is unlikely.
This is like walking into a donut shop and asking, “What item on the menu is the healthiest?”
Someone looking for a healthy item to eat at a donut shop has an inner conflict between the actions they want to take… and how they actually themselves.
Every time you complete a habit, you’re casting a vote for the type of person you want to become.
And awareness of this is powerful.
Because now you can get to the cause (instead of fiddling with the effects).
Changing your identity is causal. It has a ripple effect. It can impact our beliefs, values, capabilities, behaviors, and environment.
So the overarching process for permanent change is:
What result do you want?
What type of person do you need to become for you to achieve this result?
What actions and habits reinforce this identity or self-concept of yourself?
This is easier said than done. So if you read till the end, I’ll share a practical way to start doing this successfully for your content.
Beethoven’s Habits Made Him Legendary
Ludwig van Beethoven is one of the most influential composers in the history of Western music.
His achievements as a composer and pianist far outrank most artists of the classical music repertoire.
He wrote for wealthy patrons and also earned money from public concerts.
His accomplishments include writing 32 piano sonatas, 9 symphonies, 5 piano concertos, 1 opera, and some ground-breaking string quartets.
How was he able to create so much value?? The answer is found in his habits.
Here’s a glimpse into his daily routine.
He typically rose at dawn and would prepare coffee for himself. He had a quirky habit of using exactly sixty coffee beans per cup.
He’d then be at his workstation till about 2 or 3 pm. He regularly went on walks outdoors to take breaks (which would aid his creativity).
After his midday dinner, he’d embark on a long walk, carrying a pencil and a couple of sheets of music paper in his pocket when inspiration struck.
Evenings were often spent with company or at the theater.
He’d rarely work on his music in the evening and would get to bed at a reasonable time (no later than 10:00 pm).
His daily actions reinforced the type of person he wanted to be.
He got 1% better each day. And the result?
Becoming one of the greatest composers of all time.
His habits, throughout his lifetime, made him a legend.
What Research Says About Permanent Change
How can we start (or improve) our content marketing processes so that online growth and profit are inevitable?
Here’s a common roadblock people face when creating content. Perhaps you can relate.
You get a surge of motivation.
The notion of using content marketing to build your business becomes exciting. So you go all in.
You spend multiple hours each day creating content. Maybe you do this for a couple of weeks or a month.
Suddenly… your surge of motivation begins dissipating. You’re not getting results fast enough.
Then all of a sudden, your motivation dies.
And your habit with it.
In Atomic Habits, James Clear explains that one of the biggest bottlenecks for developing permanent habits is caused by it being “too hard.”
This is rooted in human nature.
We’re wired to conserve energy. And we’ll usually take the path that requires the least amount of effort.
In 1949, Harvard linguist George Kingsley Zipf proposed the Principle Of Least Effort. It’s also referred to as Zipf’s law.
Interestingly enough, the context of Zipf’s law comes from the study of linguistics. And it’s been extrapolated to other domains of study since.
Zipf noticed that the evolution of language followed this rule of least effort.
C.M. Millard, Author of A Biography of the English Language, explains this principle well:
“One explanation for linguistic change is the principle of least effort. According to this principle, language changes because speakers are ‘sloppy’ and simplify their speech in various ways. Accordingly, abbreviated forms like math for mathematics and plane for airplane arise. Going to becomes gonna because the latter has two fewer phonemes to articulate. . . . On the morphological level, speakers use showed instead of shown as the past participle of show so that they will have one less irregular verb form to remember.
“The principle of least effort is an adequate explanation for many isolated changes, such as the reduction of God be with you to good-bye, and it probably plays an important role in most systemic changes, such as the loss of inflections in English.”
That being said, James Clear proposes a simple solution when forming a habit.
“Make it easy.”
If you only post content once a month, it’ll be too challenging to create 5 articles a week. It’s not realistic or sustainable.
That’s kind of like expecting to take your car from 0 to 100 in a second. Not only is it unrealistic, but you also place additional and unnecessary stress on your car and its engine.
This is where a powerful tactic comes into play.
The Two-Minute Rule: Build Content Habits From The Ground-Up
James Clear recommends a tactic called the “two-minute rule.”
The basic idea is that you make a habit as easy as possible for your current skill and resources level.
Start with a two-minute habit. And improve from there.
Let’s say you want to read more so that you have more source material for your content.
Instead of reading an entire book in a week, start reading a couple of minutes each day first. Once this is a habit, iterate and expand on it.
The same thing goes for any aspect of your content creation process that you want to improve upon.
How can you make it as easy as possible?
If you’re like me, then you may have some objections to this. Most of my protests stemmed from the “all or nothing” approach.
If you go from exercising 0 minutes each day and then try to work out for 1 hour each day… you won’t last long.
It’s more productive to make the habit easy first. So instead of exercising for 1-hour daily, you could start with 10 or 20 pushups every day.
“But Colton, 10–20 pushups won’t help me reach my goals.”
You’re technically correct in the short-term.
And with a perfectionist mentality, you’re tempted to start with an ambitious habit. I speak from personal experience.
But the downfall to this approach is that you’ll never create a long-term habit.
A more productive approach is to focus on shifting your self-concept.
10–20 pushups may not give you the immediate outcome you want… but doing it every day will reinforce the identity of someone who exercises every day.
And once your identity has shifted, it’s much easier to iterate and improve your habit.
Being on the right trajectory is more valuable than fixating on the current outcome.
Now It’s Your Turn: Make Your Content Creation Habits Easy
Your content habits form the foundation for mastery.
1% improvements each day allow you to build your content creation skills.
And when used strategically, you can leverage this to build your audience and brand… generating more growth and profit.
This checklist will help you get started with content (or improve an existing habit).
What result do you want? And how do you want the content to impact your business?
How much content do you need to create every week?
What type of person do you need to become to achieve this?
What actions and habits reinforce this identity or self-concept of yourself?
What’s the easiest way to start developing these habits right now? What’s realistic given your current level of skills and resources? Make it 2-minutes each day if you have to.
The goal of this checklist is to elicit some ideas to begin implementing a content habit now.
If the habit is too intimidating, perhaps scale it down a bit. Make it easier.
If the habit is so easy that it’s laughable, perhaps make it slightly more challenging.
When utilizing a content marketing process to grow your business online, there are two forms of inputs to account for: quantity and quality.
Should you focus on creating tons of content? Or focus on high-value content?
How often should you produce content?
What’ll give you the most significant amount of success?
These questions create concerns that your content creation approach isn’t good enough or effective for driving business results.
In this article, I intend to help you shift this anxiousness into self-confidence.
The headline of this post implies the solution: it’s a blend of the two.
But blend them incorrectly (and in the wrong order), and you’ll receive sub-par results.
By the end, you’ll have a framework for producing valuable content by blending quality and quantity.
Over time, you’ll be able to generate more views, trust, and true fans of your content.
Quantity Alone Creates Unfulfilling Results
In August 2013, I started my first semester in college.
Filled with excitement, I was ready to explore this new world. I’ve always had an appetite for learning, so I was curious to experience “higher learning.”
Since General Education classes were required for credit, one of the classes I took was English Writing.
It was at an off-campus location, so I had to drive 45 minutes twice a week to get there!
I’ll never forget my professor.
He had us read challenging, mentally stimulating ideas from Montessori, Jung, Machiavelli, and other great thinkers.
It was hard. But it wasn’t overwhelming or impossible.
He didn’t require us to read through the whole book. We skipped around.
He picked sections that he thought would provide the highest quality learning experience for us, given our learning level.
I’d always come out of that class with some insight or improvement in my critical thinking skills.
It was effective because the priority was quality over quantity. Quantity played an important role, but it was done deliberately to enforce quality.
The number of writing assignments was instilled with intention.
Rather than assign meaningless assignments, each one focused on quality outputs.
After finishing that semester, I was excited about the following sequence of classes. My expectations were high.
But what I experienced next was sobering.
Classes became boring and uninspiring. Professor after professor would be dull and stale.
They needed to cover every chapter. Read every single lecture slide. Do every single activity.
The focus was on maximizing quantity. Quality learning didn’t seem to be a guiding principle in the lesson plans.
I quickly realized that my English Professor during my first semester set the bar high.
Truthfully, this was frustrating. And towards the final year of my 5-year period of being a student, I was mentally tuned-out of most classes.
I decided to go through the motions, do the minimum required work to get by, and eventually get my degree.
With the extra time on my hands from doing the “minimum required work,” I got back into self-education (something I stopped doing because of my school schedule).
I re-visited content from Tim Ferriss, Neil Patel, Pat Flynn, and many other entrepreneurs and marketers I felt created high-quality content.
And today, I find myself in positions where I share my knowledge and experiences with others.
You could say I’m on the other side of the learning aisle.
And I’ve discovered something interesting.
It’s tempting to focus exclusively on quantity.
If I’m honest with myself, there’s a payoff when you focus on quantity over quality (especially when I found myself teaching or creating content).
Focusing exclusively on quantity creates an illusion that you’re making progress.
You get to feel like you’re getting results. And since you’re not experimenting with different quality approaches… you don’t have to experience nearly as much rejection.
And it’s much easier to be judged by the number of outputs instead of the quality of your ideas.
Unfortunately, the success of some teachers is measured on quantity.
“How many students “passed?”
“Did you cover the full curriculum?”
“Did you finish all the classroom activities?
These are all important, to a degree.
But how would you measure a successful teacher by quality?
“Did the students learn?”
If the answer is no, then we’ve failed the students.
This is how it is in business. And this is how it is with content creation.
Quality is how you provide results. Impact.
Quality is directly related to providing value.
But there’s a paradox here.
I’m not going to admit that quantity doesn’t play an important role.
A teacher needs to put in the reps to build skills that create a quality learning experience.
I’ve come to learn that quantity as a “knowledge worker” should be a supporting function (not the focal driver).
So next, I’ll explain the nuances between how to leverage quantity and quality.
This will support you in developing content that actually helps your business grow and become more profitable.
If You’re Reading This, Then You’re Probably A “Knowledge Worker”
Whenever we have challenges or problems, our instinctual response focuses on adding quantity to solve them.
And this is largely due to our history as a species. For the longest time, manual labor (versus knowledge labor) was the primary working paradigm.
But with the rise of modern society, many jobs and career opportunities have shifted towards knowledge work.
Peter Drucker is considered the father of modern management thinking. He’s one of the most widely-known and influential thinkers in this space.
He coined the term “knowledge worker” in his book The Landmarks of Tomorrow (1959).
He shared how successful knowledge workers would be valuable business assets in the 21st century due to their ability to be highly productive and creative.
If you’re reading this, you’re probably an entrepreneur, business owner, and/or marketer.
That makes you a knowledge worker.
When sharing his thoughts on productivity for a knowledge-worker, Drucker notes,
“In most knowledge work, quality is not a minimum and a restraint. Quality is the essence of the output. In judging the performance of a teacher, we do not ask how many students there can be in his or her class. We ask how many students learn anything — and that’s a quality question.
In appraising the performance of a medical laboratory, the question of how many tests it can run through its machines is quite secondary to the question of how many tests results are valid and reliable. This is true even for the work of the file clerk.
Productivity of knowledge work therefore has to aim first at obtaining quality — and not minimum quality but optimum if not maximum quality. Only then can one ask: “What is the volume, the quantity of work?” This not only means that we approach the task of making more productive the knowledge worker from the quality of the work rather than the quantity, it also means that we will have to learn to define quality.”
That being said, quality becomes the primary metric for success. Quantity then becomes the vehicle to deliver quality.
So if you’re trying to acquire results in a field that primarily requires your ability to think and utilize your knowledge, then a quantity-focused paradigm is ineffective.
And not only is it ineffective, but it’ll also actually bottleneck your success.
If we focus on quantity without much thought to quality, we can waste an unhealthy amount of time and energy. Before we know it, we’re overwhelmed and “busy.”
This is why Tim Ferriss says, “Being busy is a form of laziness — lazy thinking and indiscriminate action.”
This applies to our content marketing and business development.
Quality content moves the needle.
I once heard Michael Simmons refer to content as the new business card. And I agree.
So how do we generate quality content?
More importantly… how do we generate valuable content consistently?
Here’s the paradox of creating quality content: you need quantity to get there.
The Paradox Of Focusing On Quality
“Habits create the foundation for mastery.” — James Clear
In it, he shares how Jerry Uelsmann — film photography professor at the University of Florida — split his students into two groups on the first day of class.
Every student on the left side of the room would be in the “quantity” category.
They’d be graded based on the number of photos produced.
At the end of class, he’d tally up the number of photos produced and give a grade:
100 pictures would be an “A.”
90 would be a “B.”
And so on.
The students on the right side of the room would be in the “quality” category.
They would be graded based on the excellence of just one photo. And they had all semester to make it as perfect as possible.
A near-perfect image would be graded as an “A.”
By the end of the semester, Uelsmann was shocked to discover that all the best photos came from students in the “quantity” category.
During the semester, these students were busy taking action. They experimented with various photography methods to improve the quality of an image and learned from their imperfections along the way.
The students in the “quality” category were stuck in theory-land. They sat around and developed theories for making their one required photo perfect.
This led to one mediocre photo.
This anecdote is extremely insightful.
If creating quality content is our intention, how do we get there?
We develop quality content by intentionally engaging in producing as much quantity as feasible and realistic for our current skill and resources level.
Another example of this can be found in a different creative field: comedy.
Comedy writer, speaker, and entrepreneur Scott Dikkers sums up this point in his book How To Write Funny:
“Quantity is the key to quality. By writing more, you produce a larger pool of raw material to draw quality ideas from. No writer writes only one joke that’s pure gold as soon as it’s written.
One of the myths of writing in general, and comedy writing in particular, is that a genius sits down and cranks out a perfect piece of writing in one draft, without rewriting, editing or proofing.
The best comedy writers write dozens and dozens — sometimes hundreds — of jokes, and then carefully select only the best ones to present to readers. They make it seem easy because they never show us all the bad jokes they throw away.”
As you engage in a consistent amount of quantity, you begin to develop habits.
And as mentioned earlier, “habits create the foundation for mastery.”
But there is a downside to developing habits solely based on quantity.
The Downside Of Taking Quantity To The Extreme
In Atomic Habits, James Clear writes:
The benefits of habits come at a cost. At first, each repetition develops fluency, speed, and skill. But then, as a habit becomes automatic, you become less sensitive to feedback. You fall into mindless repetition. It becomes easier to let mistakes slide. When you can do it “good enough” on autopilot, you stop thinking about how to do it better.”
How do you escape mindless repetition?
James Clear (and other learning experts) suggest engaging in deliberate practice and learning.
Psychologists and researchers define this as the process of “articulating and codifying” your experiences and knowledge.
In other words, you reflect on what you’re doing and what you’ve learned.
Examples of this are journaling, teaching someone what you’ve learned, etc.
This will help you identify minor errors and opportunities for improvement.
Content Creation Mastery Requires A Nuanced Approach
On your journey towards creating quality content that your audience will love (and grow your business online), we need a nuanced approach.
In the beginning, you’ll want to engage in quantity, similar to the students in Jerry Uelsmann’s class that performed at a higher level.
This establishes a habit. And this is the foundation of mastering content marketing for your niche.
But once it’s a habit, the next important thing to do is to engage in deliberate practice and learning.
This ensures you avoid mindlessly creating content that doesn’t evolve with your audience or niche.
Over the long haul, this process will lead to content marketing that’ll grow your brand and help you become more profitable.
Your Next Step: Begin Your Content Creation Habit
When I do resistance training workouts, I ensure that I’m doing as many reps as possible while keeping perfect form.
In other words, I’m aiming to maximize reps without sacrificing the quality of movement.
Similarly, we’ll want to develop a content creation habit without sacrificing quality.
Step 1: Quality — Set Your Intention
So to begin, you’ll want to set your attention on producing quality content to build an audience that knows, likes, and trusts you.
That’s your intention. Your North Star.
Let’s start with a couple of quality-focused questions:
What’s the purpose behind your content?
What are you ultimately trying to achieve?
What results are you aiming to deliver for your audience?
This is similar to a teacher asking themselves, “Did my students learn?”
Once this intention is set, it’s time to use quantity to develop a habit.
Step 2: Quantity — Develop A Content Creation Habit
To develop a habit, use these guiding questions to help:
With my current level of skill and resources, what content creation habit should I create?
What action steps or routines must you implement to achieve your content creation goals?
This requires you to be honest with yourself. We’re all at different levels of competency.
I’m not going to lie to myself and say that I can produce 5 long-form blog posts a week.
So instead, I’m focusing on one long-form piece of content a week and then smaller forms of content to fill in the gaps.
In the same way, you’ll want to develop a habit that makes sense for where you’re at.
If it’s one short-form piece of content a week, great!
One video? Awesome.
A couple of social media posts? Fantastic.
Step 3: Once The Habit Is Formed, Use Deliberate Practice
By this point, you’ll be clear on your content goals (the quality outputs) and a realistic habit for meeting these outputs.
Once this habit is formed, it’s time to taking your content to the next level.
You can achieve this by reflecting and tracking your progress. Over time, you’ll find opportunities for improvement.
For example, perhaps reflection leads you to notice your storytelling abilities are weak.
Once you’re aware of this, you can begin implementing more quantity to develop your storytelling (until this becomes a habit).
And the process repeats.
By developing a content creation habit, you’ll build the foundation for mastery.
And if you can master a content creation process that works for your niche, then you’ll find long-term growth and profitability.
“Remember to dream big, think long-term, underachieve on a daily basis, and take baby steps. That is the key to long-term success.”
– Robert Kiyosaki
Within the past two and a half years… I’ve noticed the quickest rate of personal growth and development occur during the past six months.
And here’s why.
I used to rarely publish content.
Within the past six months, I’ve created more content than the previous two years combined.
So why didn’t I publish a lot of content before?
My perception of time was holding me back.
Specifically, short-term thinking was the reason I rarely published content.
When I adopted a long-term thinking approach, I became much more consistent with my content creation.
If I didn’t do this, I would’ve plateaued and given up by now.
Having a streamlined content creation process truly makes sense if you’re looking at the future implications for your life and business.
And if we can become more future-oriented, success is inevitable.
In this post, I’ll be diving into the type of thinking that differentiates visionaries, thought leaders, and successful entrepreneurs from the masses.
Jeff Bezos’ Insane Business Decisions
Self-made billionaire Jeff Bezos has undoubtedly made significant business decisions.
So what’s at the core of his decision-making process?
Here are a few examples that reveal Bezos’ thought process:
When he was deciding if he should start Amazon, he used a “regret minimization framework.” He imagined his future self on his deathbed and considered the following question: “Would I regret not making this decision?”
He’s spent billions of dollars running experiments that won’t bear fruits for 5–7 years and were likely to fail.
To the average person, these types of decisions are crazy.
Initially, I thought they were crazy too. But I’ve learned that there’s a method to the madness.
And this is a recurring pattern that you can find in visionaries, thought leaders, and successful entrepreneurs.
Bezos’ actions indicate that he’s very “future-oriented.”
These Decisions Only Make Sense When You Use A Future-Oriented Perspective On Time
Let’s use an example that’s more relatable for most: your health.
You have decisions that fulfill both short-term and long-term goals (and accompanying benefits).
An emphasis on short-term benefits will have you focus on maximizing taste and pleasure. This could result in eating junk food, over-eating, not exercising, etc.
An emphasis on long-term benefits will focus on actions that contribute to longevity, vitality, and sustainable energy.
Depending on how you perceive time, each makes sense. There’s a payoff for each.
If you’re focused on maximizing pleasure in the present… then eating junk food and not exercising makes sense.
If you’re focused on sustainable vitality and longevity for the long-term, it makes sense to experience some “discomfort” in the short-term so that you experience long-term benefits.
Within health, we can see the negative consequences of only focusing on the short-term.
Your perspective on time will also impact your content creation and business success.
According To Research, Your Perception Of Time Will Indicate Your Success
In Philip Zimbardo’s book Time Paradox, he shares how our perception of time profoundly impacts how we live and the decisions we make.
In academic jargon:
“The abstract cognitive processes of reconstructing the past and constructing the future function to influence current decision making.”
In other words, time is abstract.
And your relationship to “time” will influence how you make decisions in the present moment.
For example: if you think long-term, then eating that cheeseburger doesn’t sound like a good idea. But if you only think short-term, perhaps you’ll eat a cheeseburger every day for the next month.
How will this impact your health over time?
After surveying more than 10,000 people with the Zimbardo Time Perspective Inventory (ZTPI), he concluded that there are 5 main categories for how we perceive time:
Without going too deep and boring you with details, his research concluded that future-oriented people tend to be more successful and accomplish their goals.
Let that sink in for a second…
Your perception of time can actually create more fulfilling outcomes in your life and business. And this is something that EVERYBODY has control over.
Thinking Long-Term Enables You To Make Higher Quality Decisions In The Present
What stops us from being future-oriented?
If you struggle with thinking this way, it’s not entirely your fault.
Instinctively, we’re not wired to think long-term.
But understanding how our brains function can help you overcome this human tendency and experience all the benefits of being future-oriented.
We all tend to focus on what’s urgent and push-off things that feel “non-urgent.”
This is actually a cognitive bias that’s been coined the “urgency bias.”
We tend to focus on urgent matters. Non-urgent matters are less of a priority.
If you’re being chased by a lion, tiger, or bear (oh my), this becomes helpful.
But when we’re not in extreme physical danger, it’s not as helpful. And it can actually hold us back.
The reason why this is so powerful is that your success relies on future opportunities.
Right now, these are “non-urgent” because it may take weeks, months, or even years to actualize.
Imagine having the opportunity to teach at an event or meet a potential business partner but lacking the skills to create a fulfilling outcome when that future opportunity arrives.
If you’re not prepared for these situations, then you miss out on huge opportunities.
And the only way to ensure that you capitalize on these opportunities is if you think long-term.
Content Creation and Long-Term Thinking
One criticism of content creation is that it’s not instantly gratifying.
It’s somewhat true. You probably won’t experience success after a few pieces of content. It usually takes a catalog of content to truly thrive.
HOWEVER. This doesn’t mean you can’t experience success along the way.
And it doesn’t take as long as you think.
But even more important… this long-term thinking approach to content is actually your biggest opportunity in the current market.
And here’s why:
A short-term approach focuses on “ego-metrics” and instant profitability. If this is the ONLY approach used, then profit eventually declines since you aren’t prepared for future opportunities in your market.
A future-oriented approach focuses on building community and long-term sustainability. This prepares you for future opportunities.
Most people are thinking short-term.
In fact, Former President of Y Combinator Sam Altman refers to long-term thinking as “one of the few arbitrage opportunities left in the market.”
Having a strong, growing community is one way you position yourself as a healthy and successful brand.
And a “future-oriented” content process will aid you in developing this.
Think about your personal and business timeline:
3 months, 1 year, 5 years, 10 years in the future…
What will your business look like?
Your content creation process can be a game-changer… the Archimedes lever that completely transforms your business development, growth, and profit.
If you only think short-term, you’ll be riding the “emotional roller coaster” of content.
Your content will lack purpose, and you’ll find yourself unprepared for future business opportunities.
If you can think long-term with your content, you’ll notice more motivation and discipline within your process.
You’ll have built a strong community.
And you’ll be more prepared for future opportunities in your business.
Have you been thinking long-term or short-term?
How To “Future Proof” Your Content Creation Process and Prepare For Huge Opportunities
“What is important is seldom urgent.” — Dwight D. Eisenhower
At the end of the day, we want a content solution that allows you to meet your short-term obligations and succeed and sets you up to create a business you want in the long-term.
Here’s a helpful tool that can help you do this.
Below is the Eisenhower Matrix, inspired by Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Though you could use this tool for every domain of your life, this will be geared towards content marketing and business development.
Focusing on the top row is exponentially more productive than the bottom row.
I’ll start with what I consider to be “higher-value,” then descend to less valuable types.
1. Important And Non-Urgent Content
The green square is the realm of long-term thinking.
This type of content aims to build an audience.
This not only includes generating more followers but also focuses on valuable content to establish a relationship with your existing audience.
This is achieved by increasing content consumption frequency by creating great content for your audience to invest in (adding additional touchpoints throughout the customer journey).
The purpose of this is to earn trust.
Here’s why I emphasize “customer-centricity.” I’ve observed that it’s easy to become lazy once we acquire a subscriber, prospect, or customer.
But long-term success will require a community of true fans.
How can you build this without adding continuous value to your audience?
This is how we can all feel when we’re stuck and aren’t confident in our creative abilities.
It’s not until running into his Ex-brother-in-law where he receives an opportunity to transform his current situation (albeit, a magical pill).
I can’t give you a magic pill that’ll solve all your content creation challenges.
But I will give you a framework and quick tactic you can use to leap out of feeling stuck and begin producing some excellent content for your brand and business.
In this post, I will share a framework that will help increase your productivity with content creation. You’ll spend less time and create more.
And I’m going to share a particular tactic that I’ve been using that has allowed me to produce many quantity ideas (without sacrificing quality).
Time And Energy Constraints Force You To Think Of Better Quality Options
Wow… I feel lazy!
In December 2020, I was relatively lazy compared to how hard I was working at the beginning of the year and throughout the summer.
I suddenly realized it’d been almost a month since I’ve been out of the flow of creating content.
To give you some context, getting into the “flow of content” for me looked like a 30-Day Facebook Live Challenge, and then producing 3 short-form content pieces and 1 long-form content piece each week.
A couple of months before this, I joined an Instructional Team that partnered with UC Berkeley to help teach a Digital Marketing BootCamp.
So I found myself being spread thin by multiple obligations. And on top of that… I was losing motivation.
I still had a desire to produce content. But any free moment I had, I just wanted to relax and be lazy.
Seriously, it’s already been almost a month??
This realization kicked my butt and forced me to re-focus.
As I tried getting back into the flow, it felt more challenging.
Before, I had the luxury of spending a lot more time creating content.
Now… I had much less time.
And the cherry-on-top was I seemed to have an abnormal amount of “creative issues.”
Hey, I’m only human.
But once I stopped beating myself up for it and accepted my situation, something cool began to happen.
My time and energy constraints forced me to consider different content approaches.
Rather than spend more time and energy, I began looking for higher quality approaches. Quality ideas that didn’t require me to exert more energy.
This was when I came across the book One Week Author by Dana Derricks.
And the most significant insight from that book was how his students could create 100+ page books in just weeks using a simple tactic.
Filled with inspiration, I began experimenting with this tactic.
And over the past couple of weeks, my creative process has completely changed for the better.
More ideas have begun flowing, and I’ve started building momentum again.
I’m going to share with you how I’ve been able to do that.
The Benefits Of Being Lazy And Bored (And Why You Should Embrace It)
Contrary to what mainstream entrepreneurs and “hustlers” tell you, it’s OKAY to go through periods of laziness.
It’s natural. It’s human. And it’s impossible to be “on” all the time.
And if you try ignoring it, burnout is inevitable.
But these lazy periods are also an amazing opportunity.
They force you to reconsider your current ideas and processes to find better ways that help you achieve the same amount of work with less effort.
This is how I’ve experienced my recent “lazy period” regarding my creative process for content.
Gather All The Sand First
Let’s imagine that you wanted to build an awesome sandcastle inside of a sandbox.
But in that sandbox, there was a limited amount of sand. Not nearly enough to build a cool-looking castle.
You discover that there’s a sandbox a couple of blocks away that has all the sand you need.
So you decide to gather some.
What do you think would be a more practical approach?
1) Do you think it’d be better to grab some sand, start building the castle, and then go back and get more sand when you run out?
2) Or would it be more effective to get all the sand you think you need at one time… and put it all in one location before you start sculpting it?
From my perspective, you can save A LOT of time getting all the sand you need first, instead of going back and forth multiple times.
And once you have all the sand you need, you can start building and sculpting the castle to your liking.
Two Creative Thinking Processes For Creating Awesome Content
There are two types of creative thinking processes when you go through a creative process of any kind.
Generally speaking, you have divergent and convergent thinking.
Convergent thinking is being able to converge ideas into their simplest form or a simple set of ideas. It’s about taking complex things and narrowing down the idea… shaving off aspects that don’t add value (or combining elements more effectively).
Divergent thinking, on the other hand, is when you generate lots of ideas. A traditional brainstorming approach would fall under this category. It’s about generating complexity by developing more ideas or options.
Convergent thinking narrows-down and refines, while divergent thinking expands and generates options.
And a quality creative process is ultimately an oscillation between both of these. Let me explain.
To give you a visual of what I’m talking about, look at the bell curve below.
On the left side, you have the initial idea or vision of what you want. For content creation, this would be your main topic.
This initial idea is simplistic. And it doesn’t carry much value yet because you still need to take action on it.
And then you move right by engaging in divergent thinking. The content piece rises into complexity. This is because you’re generating more ideas and options for your content.
Then eventually, you engage in convergent thinking. You refine the content until it comes back down to simplicity.
And the result is a powerful piece of content that’s both compelling and valuable.
So back to the sandcastle example.
You start with an idea for an outcome you want: let’s build a cool sandcastle.
It’s simplistic. And not much creative energy has gone into its production.
But it would help if you had some sand in the sandbox to build it—the raw material.
And ideally, you’d want to put all this sand in one location first (or as much as possible).
This is a period of divergent thinking. It’s a process where you’re generating more resources and putting them all in one place.
Then once you have all these resources, it’s time to go through a period of convergent thinking.
You’ll begin building, sculpting, and shaving away elements that don’t serve the ultimate result you want.
It’s a process of integration and simplifying until you have a great outcome.
The Biggest Mistake Content Creators Make: Using Both Processes At Once
When you engage in the content creation process, do you ever start micro-managing yourself every step of the way?
In other words, do you judge your content while you’re “in-process?”
If yes, then no worries. It’s common.
I’ve struggled with it. And I know tons of people who have too.
Maybe you’re trying to write, and when you generate a couple of lines of content… you begin editing and refining before you’ve even written 100 words.
And if you do this the whole way through, you’ll be wasting way too much time (and stifling the creative process).
This is the challenge you run into when you use both divergent and convergent thinking processes simultaneously.
It’s like having one foot on the gas and the other on the brakes.
Not much progress will be made.
It’s much more helpful to recognize which thinking process you should focus on and lock-in.
Then oscillate between the two when it’s appropriate.
Judging Yourself “In-Process” Ruins The Quality Of Your Content
Great content is all about simplicity on the far side of complexity.
A compelling piece of content has a sense of completion to it.
This is because valuable content emerges from a synthesis of different ideas.
And to best synthesize all of these ideas, you want to have all the sand in one location first. Then build and refine.
The key here is not to judge your ideas’ quality while you’re going through the divergent thinking period.
Self-condemnation literally destroys the creative process.
It’s important to embrace chaos within the creative process. If you do, then you’ll eventually find order.
For example, this post you’re reading was initially a mess! I had to move content around like a puzzle to create what you currently see.
Since this divergent thinking process is a huge bottleneck for lots of people, I’m going to share a simple process down below for breaking through “creative blocks.”
The better you get at this, the more quality content you’ll create.
Your audience will love it. And your brand will grow as a byproduct.
A Laser Quick Tactic For Creating More Content In Half The Time
Here’s the process that I’ve been experimenting with for the past couple of weeks.
As I’ve mentioned, recently I’ve gone through a period of laziness.
And this process has helped me produce a consistent amount of content while working fewer hours.
This process can be customized to your content creation needs, depending on your brand and business goals.
This is particularly helpful if you want to develop more written content. However, the general principles can benefit any medium of content creation.
You’ll be able to generate lots of content for your blog, social media posts, and any other platform that consists of written copy.
So the basic process starts with recording your ideas by speaking into an audio recorder (your smartphone being the most accessible option).
You can speak faster than you can write. And you’re more likely to free-associate and generate more ideas while you’re talking.
It might feel weird to do this at first. But remember, self-condemnation will stifle the creative process.
Over-time, some fantastic insights will emerge because you’ve silenced that self-critical voice.
Step 1: The Initial Idea
So grab a device to record yourself, and consider the following question, “What’s the initial topic you want to share content on?”
This is starting with the end in mind. We’re at the left-side of the bell curve.
Step 2: Divergent Thinking
Next, go through a divergent thinking process. Embrace complexity.
Create a brief outline of everything you want to talk about.
Go on a walk (or somewhere that makes sense for you). Press “Record.” And riff on the topic.
Again, don’t judge yourself here. Quantity is more important.
We’re moving right on the bell curve.
When you’re done, send your recording to a transcription service.
I’m currently using Temi. It’s pretty inexpensive. Right now, a 10-minute recording is just $2.50.
After it’s been transcribed, it’s time to go through the last process: a convergent thinking process.
Step 3: Convergent Thinking
I do some editing and proof-reading to make sure everything looks coherent (Temi does a pretty great job with accuracy).
Finally, I move some puzzle pieces around, making sure all my ideas become refined and helpful for this piece of content.
And then I publish!
That’s exactly how I created this post.
So to summarize:
1) Choose a content topic.
2) Create a brief outline of what you want to talk about.
3) Record yourself sharing ideas from the outline.
4) Send the recording to a transcription service (e.g., Temi).
5) Edit and proof-read the transcription.
6) Sculpt your piece of content. Move pieces around. Refine it.
Can You Write A Book In A Week?
Earlier, I mentioned I bought a book about a month ago from this guy named Dana Derricks. He’s a successful entrepreneur, and he’s written a ton of books.
For most of the books that he’s written, he’s created all the source content by recording himself speaking over an outline.
He’s written 13 books this way.
Most people haven’t even written 1.
This has allowed him to create books in weeks (instead of months or years).
In fact, he claims that his most recent book was created in 1 week.
He started with an outline of what he wanted to talk about and aligned each section to the book’s main idea.
It’s an impressive feat to create an entire book’s worth of content (over 100 pages) in weeks.
Recording yourself speaking is a practical way to do this.
The caveat to this is to make sure you’re producing quality. Fluff is fluff.
Recording content doesn’t automatically make it higher quality.
However, it does allow you to go through the divergent thinking process a lot quicker. And it can help you generate more content in much less time (and less effort).
Lots of online marketers are using a similar approach to repurpose content.
For example, let’s say you have a ton of videos, podcast episodes, or interviews.
They can be transcribed and turned into various pieces of content:
And if you’re feeling ambitious, each can be used in a multi-channel approach:
Using long-form content for various blogs (personal and guest posts) and open-publishing platforms (medium and quora).
Using short-form content for blogs, open-publishing platforms, and social media platforms.
So if you’re someone who does more video or audio content, then you have the option to step-up your content by transcribing and re-purposing it.
Ultimately, this process has saved me lots of time and energy.
Among other things, it touched on this idea of being relatable and why it’s so important for your brand and audience-building.
During the process of writing it, I had a conversation with a couple of friends. I was sharing my content idea with them.
I made a couple of complaints about how tons of marketing messages press on people’s fears and insecurities, leaving them feeling discouraged.
I generally feel that great marketing is educational and helpful. And there’s lots of marketing out there that triggers people’s fears, making them easy to manipulate for sales conversions.
But one of my friends reminded me of an important marketing principle, “Meet your audience where they’re at… not where you want them to be.”
Behind this principle is a philosophy towards helping people through your business.
“Give them what they want, and then deliver what they need.”
To help someone, you need first to gain their trust and attention.
And this is why relatability is key.
And we do this by meeting people where they’re currently at.
For this reason… every marketing decision is an ethical dilemma. Gain their trust and attention to help them!
If that’s not your intent, then I encourage you to stop reading here.
For those still with me, let’s continue.
The Current State Of The World: Where Are People At?
Consider the current state of the world. Where are people at?
How are they experiencing life?
What types of thoughts keep popping up?
What emotions are they grappling with?
What’s going on in their environment?
Avoid the temptation to see what YOU want to see. Try putting yourself in their shoes.
There’s lots of fear and frustration. And there are also desires, dreams, and aspirations that they hope will improve their current life situation.
When you’re aware of other people’s thoughts, emotions, and physical environment (and you relate to them at that level), you’re respecting them.
Have you ever had a conversation with someone who was “hearing” you but wasn’t “listening”?
Instead of trying to understand you, they were waiting for their turn to speak. Doesn’t feel good.
If you’re only sharing your perspective on what’s going on, then you’re not respecting their experience.
By the way, there’s nothing wrong with sharing your perspective! It’s a critical component to creating great content.
But there’s power in attuning yourself to their perspective.
It shows a level of empathy that says, “Hey, I understand where you’re at. I get where you’re coming from.”
So besides being a good person, how does this help your business?
It builds a connection with the person consuming your content. And once this connection is made, you have their attention.
And with this attention, you can guide them towards solutions that’ll ultimately help them (and help your business grow as a byproduct).
By attuning yourself to their perspective, you can create a bridge that leads them towards the light at the end of the tunnel.
If they aren’t connecting with your content, they won’t feel like they can trust you over-time.
And this will encourage them to ignore your content in the future (unsubscribing, unfollowing, or ignoring you altogether).
This will prevent you from building an audience of true fans.
IF you want to build a successful business online, you’ll want a strong audience.
For the rest of this post, I’ll share why this is happening and how we can practically get other people’s attention (and keep it).
The Psychology Behind Why Relatability Is So Important
As humans, we have this psychological mechanism called the “reticular activating system.”
This is a network of neurons in the brainstem that filters and mediates your overall level of consciousness.
In other words, if we have a thought or belief, we’ll selectively focus our attention on things that align with it.
As your brain consumes data from the outside world, your RAS filters this information to align with your existing thoughts, emotions, beliefs, etc.
Let’s say you’re driving an Acura as a rental car. Whenever you return it, you’ll likely be aware of more Acura’s while driving on the road.
They were always there. But now, your RAS is filtering data to focus on what’s most familiar and authentic to your experience.
We all do this as humans.
If you’re dealing with a specific fear or frustration, you’ll tend to focus on it (or aspects of it).
In terms of marketing, if you’re producing content on “achieving your fullest potential,” but your reader is just trying to survive and “make ends meet,”… then it may not connect with them.
Their RAS isn’t prioritizing how to reach their full potential. They want to survive right now.
And this is okay!
Again, it’s important to respect where somebody’s at and to speak to them at that level.
And understanding this idea of “selective focus” will help you better attune yourself to another person’s perspective (making your content more relatable).
Popular Models For Helping Your Content Be More Relatable
There are multiple models that we can use to help us better understand others. I’ll touch on a few.
These models are NOT meant to be taken dogmatically. No model is 100% correct.
However, these models definitely bring insight into helping you relate to others.
Discovering What “Level” Someone’s At
So the most popular model that most people are familiar with is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
The typical visual that you’ll see is a pyramid.
I’ll relate them to everyday needs as they connect to business and marketing.
Physiological: At the bottom, you have physiological and more survival-based needs. Nowadays, in developed countries, you’ll find people here struggling with their physical health.
Security: If you go up a little bit, you’ll have security and safety-based needs. A popular aspiration here is making more money or acquiring wealth.
Social: On the next level, you’ll have love, belonging, and community. Many businesses are serving people at this level by helping them with their relationships in all life domains (dating, marriage, etc.).
Self-Esteem: Then you have self-esteem and self-expression. Many people here are driven by mastering skills, creativity, and other aspects of life to improve their status in society. A key characteristic here is “self-expression,” so it’s likely you’ll find a hobbyist or someone interested in learning.
Self-Actualization: And then up at the top, you have self-actualization. This would be aspirations for “reaching one’s potential.”
Depending on where somebody is at in Maslow’s Hierarchy model, they’ll be selectively focusing on specific types of needs they want to solve.
If you’re talking to somebody who’s focusing on self-expression and creativity, then they may not resonate much with marketing that’s all about surviving and “making ends meet.”
They’re on a different level.
And as marketers, it’s our job to discover what level someone’s at (and relate to them at that level).
Discovering Audience Motives: Stick-Spanking Or Chasing Carrots
Another model that I habitually use is what Eben Pagan would call the “Achieve versus Avoid” model.
I picked this one up while I was going through his coaching program, and it’s handy when attuning yourself to someone else’s perspective.
It’s rooted in the traditional “carrot and stick” motivation model.
Imagine a donkey being motivated to move by either a carrot or a stick.
If you place a carrot in front of the donkey, it’ll be motivated to “move towards” it.
If it’s getting whacked with a stick, it’ll be motivated to “move away” from it.
Moving towards something is about achievement. Moving away from something is about avoidance.
So we can extrapolate this idea and use it for human motivation.
By simply asking someone what they want to achieve and avoid, you’ll gain some valuable insights into their perspective.
And with this perspective, we’re more equipped for being relatable.
Achieve = wants and aspirations.
Avoid = fears and frustration.
Relatability Is HOW You Bridge The Gap (And Get Attention)
I believe you have a message that can help people.
You have the knowledge, experiences, and wisdom that people would find valuable.
Perhaps you have a unique method or approach. Maybe just an idea.
Or it could be an idea that’s been around for a while. But you have an interesting way of sharing it (because of your unique experiences).
I call this authenticity. It’s a message that only you can bring to the world.
But here’s the reality.
If you’re not relatable, people won’t pay attention.
We have to earn the right to be heard by respecting another person’s perspective.
Again, the essence of what we’re talking about here goes back to a fundamental marketing principle, “Meet people where they are, not where you want them to be.”
So how do we put ourselves in a position where people will pay attention?
First, create relatable content. This is something that your audience cares about.
Use the models above to start with what motivates them.
What do they value? What do they want? What are their frustrations?
What level are they at?
Use a compelling story. Connect with them.
Relatability is how you bridge the gap between sharing what you love and getting it to resonate with someone else.
What’s the opposite and less effective approach to this?
It’s first focusing on creating an authentic piece of content, product, service, etc.
This is basically having a “build it, and they’ll come” mentality. It’s this idealistic notion that people have nothing better to do than to consume your stuff.
I wish this were true. But it tends to be unrealistic.
Once this “relatability bridge” is built, they can walk to the side of authenticity. Now you have a platform to share authentic content (because they’re paying attention).
A great example of someone doing this is my friend Matt.
He teaches people how to transform their life with personality typing, cognitive functions, and much more.
But many people aren’t aware of how his content will benefit them. And only a small percentage of people are directly searching for that kind of content.
Let’s imagine you’re creating content on the vegan diet.
You’re sharing how it’s the best diet ever. It’ll help you get in shape. Its great for your immune system. Etc.
But in reality, let’s say you’ve never tried the vegan diet. And perhaps you secretly don’t believe it’s the best diet in the world.
If this is the case, then you’re being inauthentic.
You’re not being transparent with your content.
But if you truly loved the vegan diet and all the health benefits it brings, then you’re being more authentic.
Your audience is smart. They’ll be able to detect inauthenticity.
And this is important because if you really want to build a tribe or community, then this is what draws people to you like a magnet.
The process of being transparent will allow your audience to know, like & trust you.
At the end of the day, your content is meant to speak to other humans. We’re meant to build relationships. And being inauthentic is going to hold you back from being able to build that strong relationship and connection with your audience.
Build Connection With Relatable Content
So what makes content relatable?
At the root, it’s about connection and empathy.
It’s content that your audience would find helpful and valuable.
It’s being able to put yourself in somebody else’s shoes and seeing their partial point-of-view. It’s understanding their “map of reality” and where they’re coming from.
What do they want to achieve? And what they want to avoid?
So going back to the example above, let’s assume that no one in my audience actually cares about the vegan diet.
Sure, nobody may hate it. But imagine if I began ranting about the vegan diet and all its benefits.
I’m guessing you didn’t come here for that.
No one is reading my content to gain insights into the vegan lifestyle.
An analogy, metaphor, or other creative storytelling devices could be relevant, but only if it aligns with the main topic (like I’m doing right now).
If no one cares, then it’s not relatable.
If no one in my audience sees how the vegan diet can be used as a vehicle to accomplish their goals (or avoid pain), then it’s not relatable.
If I was passionate about this subject, then I’d need to find an audience who cares.
If it’s not relatable, then it reveals that you’re not attuned or tapped into another person’s reality and what they value.
This is an important idea because the way to be successful in business is to understand how to create value for other people.
And being able to create value is contingent on being attuned to another person’s perspective. Empathy.
Checklist For Creating Engaging And Compelling Content
So how do we create content that’s both authentic and relatable?
Once you have an idea for your next piece of content, I’d recommend using the following checklist.
Here are 5 guiding questions that’ll help you create compelling and engaging content:
Is this content idea something that you’re personally interested in?
It doesn’t have to be your life purpose or mission. But you’ll want to at least be interested in the topic. If you don’t care about it, then why should your audience?
If you were writing this for your younger self, would they find it helpful?
How would your younger self find this helpful?
When would your younger self find this helpful?
These three questions will allow you to drill down on authenticity. It’s largely rooted in your personal experiences and something you’ve personally found useful in your life.
And finally, let’s look at building connection.
Is this content idea relatable to your audience? Does this help them achieve what they want? Does it help them avoid what they don’t want?
Feel free to use these questions as a checklist when you want to make sure your content is both engaging and compelling.
Building A Community Of True Fans
Imagine you were creating compelling and engaging content consistently.
Your content was both authentic and relatable. And every week, you’d share tons of value with your audience.
And they found it so interesting and valuable that they ended up sharing it with other people.
They keep recommending it to their friends. And their friends keep sharing it with their friends.
Over time, you build a community of people who love your stuff. They’ve gotten to know, like, and trust you.