Session number four in this epic 10 part ‘recap’ series was delivered by Jeff Goins speaking on ‘Starting From Scratch: How to build a platform with words, passion, and people’. Last July he published his first book, Wrecked, a really genuine look at his coming to awareness that he should be doing more to serve in the world. Over the years Jeff has developed the ability to speak on this with authority, and, having built his home base, he has come to accept the calling of being a writer. His struggle reminds me of what I read in Steven Pressfield’s book, The War of Art. Pressfield speaks of amateurs and professionals noting that “the amateur believes he must first overcome his fear; then he can do his work. The professional knows that fear can never be overcome. He knows there is no such thing as a fearless warrior or a dread-free artist.” Jeff is a professional, not because one day his writing magically changed. Rather, to me, it is because he is humbly committed to his art. There is a ton of great content here so stick around.
Writing, and eventually writing as a professional, is the key component to building your home base. Without it your space on the web is just a forwarding office for the content of others. You have to do your own thing, mine the rich uniqueness of your life for content. This is of interest to many more people than you would imagine. Why? Because it is genuine. It is authentic.
How do you get there? Jeff talked about success and where it comes from for the most successful. Think about it. The most successful products or websites that you enjoy are of use to you, they add value, escapism, meaning, or worth to your life. In essence the author is interested in you and writes content for you. Their site is built for others, not themselves. If you want to develop a platform it should be an avenue to share with and help others. Jeff outlined three steps to follow:
- FIND YOUR VOICE – How will you do this? How will you know if you found it? Well, it is not a magic moment that suddenly has you jumping up and down — ‘Yay, I found my voice!’ In Jeff’s opinion it is more like walking on broken glass. It takes discipline. You have to put in the time, preferably at a set time. A funny thing happens with discipline. It changes into habit. That is your first clue that you are becoming a professional, and better yet, a professional with a voice. In the field of writing, Jeff thinks you are a writer when you say you are. That affirmative statement makes all the difference and works for anything you want to be (or are) – entrepreneur, gadget guy, thinker. Say it. Practice it. You are a ____________. Activity follows activity and over time you will believe it.
- PURSUE PASSION, NOT RESULTS – Numbers matter. Benchmarks and analytics are necessary. However, they should not be the ‘be-all and end-all’ of what you are doing. Numbers should not be your ‘why’. For Jeff the inflection point in his writing was an off-topic post he did on traveling the world while young. In a digital instant it went viral. His blog exploded. The numbers were crazy. It paralyzed him. How do you top the hit? How do you deliver even better content on Monday? Well, by Wednesday normal traffic numbers had returned. The learning was that the post resonated with so many because it was authentic. It oozed passion for the subject. Pursue passion! Write the content that you need to write for you. Jeff found that when he stopped chasing trends, results and numbers his site traffic, his tribe, increased. They connected with his passion. There are few in the world who are not inspired by the enthusiasm that authenticity brings. Where does this passion start? It starts selfishly. Now I admit this point left me wondering if I heard correctly as it seems to fly in the face of earlier advice. The point is to use your inventory of skills. Mine your background. That is the starting point. Then…. SHARE. Share your advice, observations, learnings. Share generously. Your tribe will reward you. Their feedback and questions will guide you to mine even more content from your life. Ignore metrics. Over analyzing will stop you in your tracks and have a paralyzing effect unless used only as milestone markers. Learn to focus on one thing. For Jeff this is engagement. He works hard on delivering valuable content to subscribers who trust him with their email address. They have given him permission to engage. The value to him of this permission? Priceless.
- CONNECT (WITH EVERYONE) – Content sometimes seems like it is NOT king. Jeff’s analogy was that content can mimic the pauper outside a city wall begging, in Jeff’s finest faux British accent, “please, sir, can I have some more?” You can end up writing to fill space and a schedule of posting, and writing like this can leave you disconnected from your tribe. Jeff is a firm believer in engagement and works hard on this both in the online space, and offline. In fact engagement was a theme noted by other speakers at the conference, notably Cliff Ravenscraft, who organizes meet-ups wherever he goes to connect directly with his podcast listeners. Don’t neglect the power of an offline relationship. These lead to strong online relationships and trusted referrals from thought leaders who have come to know you in the ‘real world’. It is not who knows you, its how they know you.
Jeff speaks from the heart. You can tell that he has really struggled with his art and accepting what he is. A writer. The three points above are linked to three levels of relationships that he outlined for us. They are:
- FRIENDS – You should find them. Nurture them. They are your connection to the authentic ‘you’. They keep you grounded.
- FANS – You should serve them. All that you do in the development of your platform should be built around sharing with your fans.
- PATRON – You should earn them. As with the artists of old you should seek to earn the support of a patron in your work, someone whom you have shown that you have integrity and that you can be trusted.
We were reminded by Jeff as the session closed that everyone in the room is an artist. I’m passing that message on to you. If you are reading this far into my series you have the passion inside you to do something with this information You are an artist. You just need to START. As Jeff says in his mantra, “You can outlast those who are lucky, and outwork those who are lazy.”
Where are you in your journey of discovery of the authentic you? Are you still focussed on the look and feel of your site to the detriment of the content, the real reason why anyone may visit and invest some time with you in this noisy world? How did you find your ‘voice’? Share your thoughts in a comment. Your insight just may be the added piece to the puzzle for another reader.