I am a lover of conversations and ideas which are anchored in rich lived experience, a deep level of expertise, or a way of thinking that forces me to stop and stretch my own perspective.
Last week one of those conversations stayed in my mind for days, twisting itself inside out under the relentless glare of my thoughts, my questions, my determination to understand just what I couldn’t quite grasp in an unexpected reaction.
A previous client has the richest of perspectives from deep lived experience and a message so damn necessary right now; in fact there has NEVER been a better time for her to launch this message, this content, and this perspective into the world. And so I have done what I rarely do and continued circling back to her, nudging her to bring it back into focus – it is effortless because we have become friends, and also in my view necessary, because it is work the world needs.
I did something I rarely do; I pressure tested my assumptions with her. You see, I always ASSUME that people want to make the most of what they have and what they know and in my world that means commercialising it…I believe that if you truly want to make an impact than the most sustainable way to do so is to create solid business and financial foundations so you can accelerate the impact of what you have. So I asked her:
Is this something you actually want to make money from?
I suspected the answer would be no; I know how passionate she is about making it all freely available, about getting it in front of as many people as possible, that it was just about ‘reach’ and when we circled back to the question over a 24 hour period her answer was exactly that.
Like so many who are purpose driven, it is only about making a difference, about getting it to as many people as possible, about not wanting to monetise something that really needs to be in the hands of everyone she can possibly get it to.
So I couldn’t understand why I was sooooo bothered by her answer; I know her well; I understand her values; I get what drives her. And so I have sat in the mess of my internal responses and realised this.
The question of whether we want to be paid or not is irrelevant.
What we have to do to commercialise and socialise an idea is exactly the same – whether we want to make an impact through a ‘free’ message that goes viral or whether we want to make money it is exactly the same.
When we choose to commercialise something, to be paid for it, it introduces rigour and discipline and a drive to continually move forward to first being recognised, then being paid, then being paid well, from having to shout for attention to being sought out for the change we create.
The same discipline and rigour we need to send a message ‘viral’; we cannot underpin our ideas and experiences with the velocity required to hold more than 15 minutes of instafame in the zeitgeist without it. To move to being recognised for what we know – even when paid is in the spontaneous, rapid, exponential sharing of what we have to say and what we have to offer.
It is the lift that matters. Whether we are driven by money or impact or both is irrelevant.
Because for money, impact or both, lift requires:
1. We invest our time in crystalising our experience and knowledge
We have to take the time to unpack, iterate, and reinforce our lived experience and our knowledge into something that is consumable and inhalable by the people we most want to help; we have to be willing to research, dive into, pressure test our thinking, and do the work in the real world to have proof of concept beyond an idea.
2. We invest in the craft of what we want to do
There is craftsmanship in creating true, sustainable impact – an apprenticeship if you will. Time that we invest in going beyond being a one hit wonder, to being able to consistently deliver solutions, shift perspectives and change worlds. We have to learn, improve, achieve competency and then commit to lifting to craftsmanship and mastery.
3. Intimate knowledge of the problem we are solving
A great idea is never enough; no matter how much your inner circle and champions will have you believe it to be true. If you cannot articulate what is going on in the mind of your audience, your clients and your customers at 2am in the morning, the questions that you can help answer that matter most to them, then you are not solving a problem – you are simply adding to the noise and will never stand out
4. Creating positioning which is scannable
Long form sales copy and word intensive brochures are out. This has been one of the greatest mental shifts of my entire working life; our landing pages, websites, profiles, brochures and proposals must be ‘scannable’; I must be able to understand what you do, why you have the right to do that, and if you understand my problems quickly without burning what Donald Miller calls ‘brain calories’. Our first point of contact is now just an invitation to connect further. And build a great video habit – succinct, on point, engaging, and well produced – to rapidly build rapport. And yes, I get the irony have just said this in an 1100 word article!
5. WE MUST GET IN THE ARENA
You cannot know if what you have is what they want until you are in the Arena. Good ideas, great work, and well constructed strategy can only ever take you part way; you have to get in the arena. Be prepared to get a little pummelled; be willing to pressure test it in the real world; be able to take the hits and work out what needs to be improved. It is only in action that we find improvement and opportunity. And if the arena is not responding – in sending us viral or paying us well – then we have to return to the craft and lift our game.
When we think there is a difference between creating something we will be paid for and something we ‘just’ want to make an impact with, we often unconsciously let ourselves sidestep the discipline and rigour we need to create velocity and lift because ‘we’re not being paid for this’
And that is exactly how dreams come to gather dust on the shelves of what could have been.
Don’t let that happen to you.