Any success you will have, at anything, will ultimately come down to one of these two questions:
How little can I get away with?
How much am I willing to do?
Curiously, they both take a lot of work. The closer you get to either edge, the more effort it takes. It takes effort to do as little as possible. It takes equal effort to do as much as you can. This is why most people settle for the simplest path, which is to do just enough to remain unnoticed, and they land right in the middle.
If you opt to do as little as possible, you’re going to have to compete on price. Nobody pays a premium for basic cable. The moment you compete on price, you choose to become a commodity. You can compete on price, or you can compete on meaning. Your choice.
If you opt to land somewhere in the middle, that’s Slot Machine Thinking. You’re mistaking losing slowly with winning gradually.
The only option is to be more for fewer people. Not everyone is going to get it, so stop trying to convince everybody and instead focus on a handful of somebodies. Work with fewer people, do more and matter more and let them bring more people to the party. This strategy has worked really well for a little Canadian company I know that you may have heard of.
Here are ten questions I ask myself from time to time.
What are you doing that is difficult?
(The technical aspect of your job isn’t difficult, so if your answer has anything to do with what you actually do – what your job title is, you’re in trouble.)
What are you doing that people believe only you can do?
(If your answer is technical, then you’re in trouble.)
Who are you connecting (to others, ideas, solutions)?
What do people say when they talk about you?
(If people say you are good at your job, you’re history.)
What are you afraid of?
(A lot of people are afraid to stand for something.)
What’s the scarce resource?
(If you quit your job and joined the circus, could your clients find someone else to do the technical work you presently do for them? Then your work isn’t the scarce resource.)
Who are you trying to change?
(I’m trying to change you. Are you doing technical work and leaving the change to them?)
What does change look like?
(Who do your customers want to become? What secret do you know that you are using your business to share?)
Would anyone miss your work if you stopped making it?
What do you stand for?
What contribution are you making?
Okay, so eleven questions.
Go create something that would delight you and make you feel compelled to share it. That’s the easy part. The hard part is being comfortable being the only person who thinks you are not crazy.
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