There are multiple ways to write a headline but only a few reasons why all great headlines work.
Headline templates are a great source of inspiration.
But relying on them without understanding WHY they work puts you at a disadvantage.
What are the underlying principles that make a headline great?
The answer to this question can empower you to get more eyeballs on your content.
Copywriters or marketers will tell you that you need a catchy hook to get someone’s attention.
One of the underlying mechanisms that make a catchy hook work is “the psychology of surprise.”
This human mechanism is often under-valued, and I’ll explain why the science of surprise is the most critical aspect of getting people’s attention.
Schemas: A Fundamental Aspect Of Being Human
Before August 2006, everyone thought that Pluto was an official planet in our Solar System. But when the International Astronomical Union (IAU) downgraded Pluto to “dwarf planet” status, this was a big surprise.
If you’re interested in our Solar System and Space, this likely got your attention. Maybe you even invested some time into researching what happened.
Over the past several decades, cognitive scientists have discovered that we all have “schemas.”
Schemas are organized clusters of knowledge you hold in your mind about a subject or event. Before August 2006, your “Solar System Schema” was that Pluto was an official planet.
“Schemas can be regarded as cognitive representations of humans’ informal, unarticulated theories about objects, events, event sequences (including actions and their consequences), and situations. Schemas serve the interpretation of present and past, and the prediction of future events, and thereby, the adaptive guidance of action.”
When Pluto was no longer an official planet, this created a discrepancy between our existing “Solar System schema” and this new information.
This mismatch forces you to pay attention and focus (especially if it’s an urgent and relevant problem in your life).
Researchers studying this phenomenon explain the significance of surprise and how it gets our attention.
“Unexpected events cause an automatic interruption of ongoing mental processes that is followed by an attentional shift and attentional binding to the events, which is often followed by causal and other event analysis processes and by schema revision.”
“In terms of advice… it’s very important to actively seek out and listen very carefully to negative feedback. This is something that people tend to avoid because it’s painful. But I think this is a very common mistake – to NOT actively seek out and listen to negative feedback.”
When explaining how he implements this in his own life, Musk explains, “When friends get a product, I say, ‘Don’t tell me what you like, tell me what you don’t like.’ Otherwise, your friend won’t tell you what he doesn’t like.”
Musk is right. Feedback can be painful.
You think your new idea is brilliant and share it with excitement. Then the listener sits there, unimpressed.
Since we want to avoid pain, it’s tempting to exclusively focus on positive feedback (and the behaviors that reinforce it).
But if you’re trying to develop high-quality content or an innovative idea, then focusing on positive feedback is the worst thing you can do.
Seeking Negative Feedback Is Critical For Creative Work And Experimentation
“I think it’s very important to have a feedback loop, where you’re constantly thinking about what you’ve done and how you could be doing it better.”
– Elon Musk
I used to avoid feedback.
I think the fear of negative feedback prevented me from taking action altogether.
But as I began building relationships with other entrepreneurs, they’d naturally share their opinions about my content and ideas.
Since I knew they had good intentions, I was more willing to receive it.
This eased me into accepting the value of negative feedback.
Now, I proactively ask my friends what they don’t like about my content and ideas.
And they’ll be brutally honest with me!
Here’s my friend responding to one of my articles.
For anyone who wants to improve FAST, I recommend coaxing people for negative feedback.
Many times, people just won’t give it to you. They don’t want to offend you or hurt your feelings, so they shy away from how they actually feel about it.
This withholding of negative feedback is especially true with your friends.
By proactively coaxing them for their honest opinion, you’re letting them know that it’s okay to be honest. You won’t take it personally.
This form of feedback has delivered several insights for my content and brand.
Receiving negative feedback is critical when you’re doing any sort of creative work that requires experimentation.
The Reason Why You Don’t Seek Negative Feedback
A big reason why feedback is challenging is that it’s easy to attach our self-worth to it.
When we attach our self-worth to incoming feedback, two possible scenarios arise:
If we get positive feedback, we frame it as a “win.” We feel better about ourselves and are more motivated to continue experimenting and taking action. Yet, we can take this too far and become addicted to validation, blinding us to receiving constructive criticism.
If we get negative feedback, we frame it as a “loss.” We feel worse about ourselves and are less motivated to continue experimenting and taking action. If we maintain this perception of failure, it becomes a downward spiral.
In other words, we’re riding the emotional rollercoaster of content creation.
Here’s another way to think about it.
Every time someone says, “I don’t like your content. Your idea needs some work.”
What you end up hearing is, “I don’t like you. You’re not good enough.”
If negative feedback reinforces low self-esteem, then you’ll always avoid it. And improvement is nearly impossible.
When we experience “wins” and “losses,” there’s a complex cascade of both physiological and neurochemical changes within your body.
Neuroscientist and clinical psychologist Ian Robertson explains partly what happens when you win, explaining, “Winning increases the dopamine receptors in the brain, which makes you smarter and more bold.”
In biology, this phenomenon is called The Winner Effect.
Dopamine plays a vital role in learning comprehension and retention. Elevated states of dopamine help facilitate improved performance and heightened learning potential.
So when you’re trying to develop content or an innovative idea, you’ll want to be as resourceful as possible.
But when you’re losing (or more accurately – perceiving something as a loss), your physiology and neurochemistry changes and makes you less resourceful.
Experiencing this “loser effect” isn’t helpful when receiving negative feedback. It’s meant to be constructive, not destructive.
Bottom line: it’s critical to learn how to receive negative feedback without triggering this “loser effect” inside us.
I, for one, have struggled with this a lot. And I have a tip that’ll help you get better with this. But first, let me speak to a common objection that pops up.
If Winning Reinforces More Winning, Why Shouldn’t We Focus On Positive Feedback?
If we become more resourceful when we “win”, why wouldn’t we focus on positive feedback?
It’s a good question.
And I’ll start by saying that I don’t recommend hammering someone with feedback to diminish them. By using social intelligence, we can discern whether or not we’re speaking too harshly.
If I can see that my friends interpret my feedback destructively, I switch tactics quickly.
But here’s the reality.
If you were to take that approach – and only focus on receiving positive feedback – then sure, maybe you’d feel better in the short-term. But you’d miss out on feedback that can help you improve in the long-term.
By focusing on receiving negative feedback, you can improve the quality of your content, ideas, and ultimately your life.
Here’s How You Can Start Interpreting Negative Feedback As A “Win”
I gravitate towards Elon Musk’s advice – seek negative feedback.
But this only works if you first detach your self-worth from the incoming feedback. This process takes time, but it’s something you can learn. And eventually, you’ll naturally seek it because you know it’ll help you get better.
Negative feedback CAN be a win.
As Ryan Holiday says, “The obstacle is the way.”
Here’s a quick way to get started.
Begin seeking your friend’s and family’s honest opinion. The people you trust.
Proactively ask them for their honest feedback on your content or innovative idea.
This request may be uncomfortable at first. But eventually, you’ll train yourself to realize that this negative feedback is intended to help you grow and succeed.
It’s much easier to learn how to do this with people you trust instead of strangers.
With practice, you’ll begin cultivating a healthy relationship to negative feedback. You’ll let it become a more common occurrence (instead of avoiding it or tuning it out).
You can now start iterating and improving at an accelerated rate because you’re receiving valuable data for how you can improve.
“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.
“Do not many of us who fail to achieve big things … fail because we lack concentration — the art of concentrating the mind on the thing to be done at the proper time and to the exclusion of everything else?”
— John Rockefeller
Does your content creation process enable you to achieve your business objectives?
More growth? Profit?
The ability to adapt and improve at a quick pace?
Sometimes it’s challenging to identify the weaknesses in our current process.
But as the 80/20 principle suggests, there’s only a handful of inputs that create exponential results.
I want to share how you can identify these inputs and create exponential results.
Your Content Creation Efforts Are A Process
And within that process, there will always be a constraint that jams the “flow” of content.
Why is this a problem?
Your online business success is in direct proportion to your ability to produce value for your audience and customers.
And your content serves a major role in producing this value. If you aren’t producing both high quantity and quality content… then you’re producing less value.
This puts constraints on your overall business success!
One way to identify these blocks in your content process is by looking for the bottlenecks (and removing them).
The Theory Of Constraints
Dr. Eliyahu Goldratt introduced this Theory of Constraints model in his 1984 book, “The Goal.” Since its conception, it’s evolved and used across multiple business domains.
The basic idea is that every process has a major constraint that’s jamming the “process throughput.” It reduces the flow of the process, hindering your progress towards your objectives.
A car accident puts constraints on the flow of traffic.
Toxic relationships put constraints on your happiness.
Unhealthy foods put constraints on your vitality and energy.
And by unjamming this constraint, the flow improves.
The constraint sets the pace for how fast you progress towards your goals.
If this bottleneck isn’t addressed, it could create some serious problems over-time. Imagine never addressing your health bottlenecks…
But if you can quickly identify these constraints and solve them, then you’ll have a more optimized system in place.
Identifying these constraints is vital.
The Theory Of Constraints And Your Content Process
I started to notice that I had a large quantity of content laying around. These were pieces of content that had been published on one platform… and then never used again.
Something needed to change. I wanted to use these pieces of content to add more value to my audience.
This would allow me to stretch the value of every piece of content I created.
*Side note: Any accumulation of resources that are a “Work In Progress” usually indicates that a bottleneck is nearby.
For me, this meant that I had a bottleneck at the re-purposing phase of my content process.
So I began experimenting with ways to solve this constraint.
This included re-purposing content on different platforms, consolidating relevant content together, etc.
This improved the flow of my content process.
Perhaps you’re having a “duh” response. But when you’re in the trenches of your own process, these bottlenecks tend to be blind spots.
How can we identify them more easily?
Here’s How You Can Identify The Bottlenecks In Your Content Process
Here are the three questions you’ll want to ask when identifying bottlenecks:
1. What needs to be changed?
2. What should it be changed to?
3. What actions will cause the change?
Let’s use my example above to break this down.
What needed to change? I wanted to use the content that wasn’t being utilized and re-purpose it across different platforms/audiences.
What should it be changed to? Having a system that re-purposes this content without spending an obscene amount of time.
What actions will cause change? Develop a system that organizes my content and consolidates relevant pieces together (and then distribute them to the appropriate platforms).
What are the constraints in your content process?
Your ability to diagnose these constraints and quickly resolve them will increase the “flow” of your content.
Creating content without a vision just passes the time.
We need a north star when steering the ships of our businesses.
In ship navigation, the captain uses an “error correction” approach when directing the ship.
They understand where their ship is headed. They know their “north star.”
And if the ship ever goes off course, they merely correct the error.
They don’t see this error as a “failure.” They understand that there are factors outside of their control.
And when they become aware that they’ve gotten off course, they realign the ship towards this north star.
In this article, we’re going to develop a content vision that focuses on your audiences’ needs (not yours).
This’ll allow us to create content that resonates with an audience.
High Impact Content Is Always Informed By This “North Star”
Planning and creating a larger vision is common practice within lots of business domains.
However, I notice it’s often neglected when dialing in the content creation process.
And since content creation is a major pillar for online business success… we must discover this vision.
If you neglect this process (and don’t constantly revisit it), you’ll end up wasting your energy, time, and money.
Not having clarity on your “north star” creates a stagnant business that lacks both direction and action.
High impact content is always informed by this higher purpose. And every piece of feedback we receive from our content (both internally and externally) will allow us to keep moving in the right direction.
We start this process by asking the following:
What’s the “ultimate result” you’re helping your audience achieve?
And this “ultimate result” becomes your north star for your content creation.
When you’re steering your business’ ship towards getting more leads, customers and profit… you’ll simultaneously be moving in a direction that makes a LARGE impact on your audience and customers.
Creating a vision for your content ensures that you accomplish both business growth and a positive impact.
Aristotle & Developing Your Content Vision
Creating a “content vision” ensures that you accomplish business growth and create a big impact on your audience.
What if every piece of content you created had a positive ROI?
Maybe you spend countless hours creating a piece of content you think is amazing.
Scratch that. You know it’s amazing…
You put all this time and energy into creating a great piece of content. And what comes next?
You get very little traction (and sometimes none at all).
I know this struggle all too well.
And not only do I personally struggle with this… I’ve observed this pattern at play in countless other entrepreneurs.
So I’m going to share how you can gain a high ROI on your content EVEN IF you’re not getting the immediate results you want.
Winners Have Systems
Scott Adams likes to say that “losers have goals” and “winners have systems.”
This is a principle that I’ve held onto for many years.
The essence of this quote is asking the following question:
How can I pursue a goal so that EVEN IF I “fail” miserably… I still develop my skills, abilities and/or relationships through the process?
In regards to content creation… how can I win and grow after every piece of content?
The top complaints I hear about content creation is how it’s a long-term approach to business success. It’s not instantly gratifying.
Though this may be true for your ultimate business objectives (revenue, profit, etc.) you can still receive high ROI after every piece of content you create.
It’s highly unlikely to produce one or two pieces of content and have success emerge. Content creation is a process.
Are there exceptions to the rule? Of course. Even a broken clock is correct twice a day… but that doesn’t mean I should allow it to inform me of the time and put it on my wall.
Success is more likely to emerge after you’ve developed a catalog of quality content.
Different forms of ROI can be achieved in your content. And these can transform your business over-time.
And the quickest and most efficient way to achieve this is by having a streamlined process.
By having a content creation engine in place, we can streamline our success and use every piece of content as an opportunity for high ROI.
Let’s Talk ROI
To get a high ROI on every single piece of content… we need to first be clear on what this ROI is.
As an entrepreneur, I know that most things don’t work out exactly as planned. So by focusing only on short-term financial metrics… I could end up wasting countless hours and energy on something that may NEVER work out.
Instead, I’d rather invest in experiences that’ll give me large amounts of learning and skills. These are resources that I can use for future successful endeavors.
This doesn’t mean I don’t focus on achieving these short term goals. I do.
But I have a higher purpose outside of “get more money.”
And by focusing on experiences, I’m setting myself up for future success (even if my short-term goals don’t work out 100% as planned).
The world is evolving and changing. And innovation is accelerating at an unfathomable rate.
And if we’re not learning from every single experience we have… then we’re wasting our time.
We’d be wasting our time because we’d be unprepared for future opportunities.
These current experiences will prepare you for these future opportunities in ways you couldn’t have even imagined.
For instance, almost a year ago I decided to learn professional coaching & teaching. And I created goals that forced me to learn these skill-sets.
And they’ve paid off in unpredictable ways.
For example: recently I’d been asked to join the instructional team that teaches digital marketing to UC Berkeley students.
And if I hadn’t learned how to professional coach or teach, then I wouldn’t have been prepared for that opportunity.
Pursue a high return on experience.
It’ll pay off in unpredictable ways.
3 Important Facets Of A Content Creation Engine That’ll Give You Massive ROI
They’re a few ideas I’d like to share today that’ll completely transform your relationship with your content.
Here are 3 important facets of a content creation engine:
1. Having A “Higher-Purpose” Keeps You On Course
It’s important to understand that you have business “goals” and a higher “purpose” for why you create content.
For instance, your goals could be to generate more leads and revenue. Your purpose could be to create a positive impact for your audience (I recommend customizing your purpose so it resonates with you).
Your goals are “finite” because they have a measurable outcome. They can end or be accomplished.
Your purpose could be considered “infinite” in the sense that it’s a continuing process.
And ideally, each of these finite goals fulfills this “infinite” process.
For example, growing your business online (leads and revenue) could fulfill the higher purpose of making a positive impact.
So why is this distinction important?
Goals focus on outcome-orientation. Purpose focuses on process-orientation.
If you want to create an effective content creation process, you’ll need a higher purpose for it.
Not every piece of content is going to give you thousands of likes & comments. If you don’t have a higher purpose for creating your content, then those posts will discourage you.
Discouragement will lead to less action. Less growth. Less results. And over-time… a failing business.
It’s a deadly downward spiral.
However, if you’re clear on your higher purpose, you can tap into a process-oriented mindset. So even on your “off” days, you still win.
Every action fulfills this higher purpose. And because you’re taking tons of action, you gain a massive Return On Experience.
2. You Learn And Develop Faster When You Teach
In one of my favorite articles written by Michael Simmons, he shares a powerful model that he coined the “explanation effect.”
The main idea is that we learn, develop, and accelerate our growth when we teach others.
Teaching reveals gaps in your own knowledge and gives you feedback on where to improve. This creates a cumulative effect over time.
You’ll have a much greater learning potential compared to someone who isn’t teaching.
And content creation is a form of teaching!
So every piece of content you create, you have an opportunity to get better. Learn. Develop. And accelerate your growth.
And when you focus on getting better, you turn into the type of person who naturally attracts leads and clients.
I’m not proposing you just passively create content and hope for people to find you. However, having a content creation engine that focuses on getting better will turn you into a person who can sustain success.
You’ll have the skills and abilities needed to maintain success… instead of suffering from the “one-hit wonder” phenomenon.
3. Discovering A Profitable Niche
Chris Rock is very experimental with how he develops his jokes.
When he writes a joke, he DOES NOT think to himself… “This is a good one, I’ll use this for my next big performance.”
Instead, he begins by going to smaller venues and experiments with his material. Then he observes the audiences’ feedback.
Which jokes do they like? Which ones do they not like?
Once he has enough feedback, he consolidates the BEST jokes and uses them for his next big performance.
A streamlined content creation process works the same way for discovering niches.
Discovering your niche can be a big challenge.
It takes time to become clear on your audiences’ specific needs and develop solutions to overcome them.
But research alone won’t give you these insights. You receive “diminishing returns” after a certain point of researching.
The only way to TRULY figure out what your audience wants and needs is by their direct feedback (similar to Chris Rock’s approach)
And content creation can be a powerful vehicle for doing this.
Over time, it’ll show you what your audience cares about.
And then you can consolidate your best content into premium offers that’ll serve your audience at a higher level.
This could literally be the catalyst for a profitable business, products, and services.
The more refined your content process, the more likely you’ll find these gems over-time.
How To Begin Developing A Content Creation System
There are a few things you can do to start building this content creation engine:
Develop a “higher purpose” for creating your content. Every time you create and share content, you fulfill this purpose. That’ll get you into a process-oriented mindset.
How can you start creating content so that EVEN IF it doesn’t achieve your “desired results”… you still developed your skills, abilities, and relationships?
In what ways can you start running tiny experiments with your content? Use Chris Rock as inspiration.
“I prefer to shoot the arrow, then paint the target around it. You make the niches in which you finally reside.”
— Brian Eno, Father of Ambient Music
Sometimes innovation and creativity come from tragedy.
Imagine the pain of your lungs collapsing. Then not too long after… you slip on the wet road and get hit by a car!
Talk about bad luck.
Well, this was Brian Eno’s reality in 1975.
But something unexpected happened as he lay bedridden.
On one fateful day, a friend came over to visit him.
She offered to play a music record for him as he lay resting, and he agreed.
She chose some 18th-century harp music.
Brian Eno’s guest left, but kept the music playing…
To his dismay, the volume was too low for his liking. And he couldn’t reach to change the volume.
Initially, he was frustrated with the inconvenience…
But as he lay there, he noticed the sound of rain pouring down outside.
And he could hear the harp music just loud enough above the sound of the rain.
At that moment… he was inspired by the sound that emerged between the harp music and the rain outside.
And this is the origin of Ambient Music, which is now a very popular genre!
Ambient music focuses on tone and atmosphere. It’s a good choice when you’re trying to enhance the “vibe” or ambiance in the environment. And it’s frequently used as background music for studying or relaxing.
Brian Eno successfully discovered this niche.
And he’s made other noteworthy contributions to the music industry since, such as being one of the producers for Coldplay’s “Viva la Vida” album. And much more.
“Plant Seeds” To Discover Your Niche
Here’s the good news: you don’t have to be bedridden to discover your niche!
I’m going to repeat his quote from above: “I prefer to shoot the arrow, then paint the target around it. You make the niches in which you finally reside.”
To understand this quote, it’s important to look at his philosophy as an artist.
In an interview, Brian Eno mentions that artists are “much more like gardeners. We’re planting seeds, and how they come up is different every time. It’s constantly surprising.”
His style of creativity is all about “planting the seed” and seeing what grows from it.
In other words, he doesn’t wait to gather the “perfect” amount of data or information before taking action.
He takes action, plants some seeds & watches for feedback.
How To Gain Clarity On Your Niche
I want to lay out a basic process when discovering your niche, inspired by Brian Eno.
Step 1: Take Action And Plant Seeds
In the spirit of Brian Eno, start planting seeds.
Begin taking action. Build your audience. Test your content ideas.
See what works.
Shoot the arrow. Then paint the target around it.
The deeper and deeper you explore your niche, the more clear you’ll become.
Step 2: Gather Feedback
As you plant the seeds, notice how they grow.
Do they grow at all?
This will give you more clarity on your niche over time.
Perhaps you begin noticing patterns about your audience.
Maybe they’re all experiencing similar challenges.
These are amazing insights for serving your audience and dialing in your niche.
But don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you need to do more research to discover these insights.
Clarity comes from both discovery AND development. Knowledge AND experience.