You don’t control the narrative.

A common mistake people commit in marketing anything is assuming they control the narrative.

While marketers can help nurture the acceptance of a narrative, they have no ability to control it. As a matter of fact, in almost all cases, no one has this power. It is one specifically reserved for the culture to wield.

Don’t try to explain to people who you are, what you do, or why you’re better. That’s a tired, zero sum game. Instead, just be those things.

The narrative will create itself.

Losing focus?

If you’re struggling to focus, it may not be because your mind is flawed, but because you don’t feel attached to what you’re working on.

An easy way to find out what you’re predisposed to be good at? Find out how easy it is you to focus on it.

Fast learning is a byproduct of intent-driven focus. Once you’ve found what you can be laser focused on, go for it.

You’ll be a master in no time.

Remembering the fundamentals.

Sometimes when I’m struggling in something I feel skilled in, I like to strip my mind back to the fundamentals.

As we gain expertise over time, it becomes easy to feel like the fundamentals have already been mastered. Nonetheless, getting to the next level can sometimes be as simple as reeducating yourself on basic topics.

It’s for the same reason that the process of teaching others can also help teach you, too. Education isn’t linear. It’s always ok to retrace your steps.

Building a staircase.

A staircase without steps wouldn’t just be an oxymoron, it’d also be impossible to walk up.

The same goes with any ambition. Rather than starting with the peak goal, make some steps. Build a staircase.

Suddenly, walking to the top is possible.

Be happy, today.

If you’re not enjoying the road to your goal, you’re likely on the wrong path.

Simply put: don’t sacrifice your enjoyment today for the prospect of a better life tomorrow.

Of course, there are always challenges we need to face before moving forward. But, if these challenges are sucking the life out of you, they should be a telltale sign of where the road you’re exploring is headed.

Recently, I’ve realigned myself to only do what keeps me fulfilled in the present moment. No more busy work, no more resentment.

So far, so good.

Seek boredom.

As we all grow closer to the internet, boredom has become less common than ever.

Though boredom has a negative connotation, I’d argue that my largest peaks in creativity have been a result of it. Rather than using screens as a bandaid for your boredom, try to make the ‘nothing’ right in front of you something.

Over time, your fear of boredom will decrease, and your happiness, satisfaction, and creativity will increase.

Offering advice.

Instead of telling someone what they should achieve, try to help them visualize the why behind your advice.

Speaking in outcomes helps translate your reasoning (the big picture in your head). If you only provide a task, what you recommend will feel less like help and more like delegation.

Decisions vs. Experiments.

Aim to be an experimenter instead of a decision maker.

Decisions are a test of your personal ability. Something that, when questioned, we naturally feel inclined to defend.

Experiments are a test of your hypotheses. Hunches with much less emotion and pressure tied to them.

When your decision fails, it feels as if you’ve failed. When an experiment fails, you’ve earned another data point. Failures are damaging, while data points help you improve.

That’s the magic of experimenting.

Taking risks.

If your downside is minimal, give your leap a shot and hope to see the upside. Whatever happens, your result will always be less regret and better stories.

Why kids are more creative.

What immediately comes to mind for me? Learning.

More-so, the act of nourishing your curiosity.

Without meaning to, kids persistently confront what makes them curious. The by-product is more inspiration to pull from, more ideas, more activity, and more playfulness.

Rather than sit in a room ruminating away, try to nourish your curiosity. Even if your next big idea isn’t sparked by it, at least you’ll have had a fun time.

Complex ≠ creative.

When I first started writing music, I longed for complexity. Unique chords, wordy lyrics, intricate strumming patterns.

Writing for my blog went the same way.

Nonetheless, aiming for simplicity, short & sweet, what feels natural, has always gone better.

Here’s why: What’s simple to you is naturally complex to others.

We’re all different. By allowing others to peek into our natural intuition, they can grasp onto certain ‘complexities’ they never understood.

Our job as creatives isn’t to be complex. It’s to make life less complex for others by sharing our natural lens.

Perfect = boring.

Perfect = no mistakes

No mistakes = nothing to overcome

Nothing to overcome = no lessons learned

No lessons learned = no wisdom to reflect upon

No wisdom to reflect upon = no stories to tell

No stories to tell = boring

Following the transitive property, one thing becomes clear:

Perfect is boring.

Questioning boundaries.

Drawing outside the lines is fun for a reason. Drawing inside the lines is effective for a completely different reason.

In any period of ideation, it’s important to stay inside the lines while comfortably questioning them at the same time. This balance can lead to structured, yet innovative ideas.

I’ve made the mistake of beginning with tight boundaries, then looping inside of them to no avail. I’ve also made the mistake of walking down the tired path of the generalist.

Here’s what works best for me:

  1. Begin with zero boundaries to find your idea
  2. Create boundaries designed to nurture the idea towards it’s fullest potential
  3. If you find an opportunity to expand your idea’s potential that lies outside of your boundaries, question these boundaries to see if they can be expanded

The most challenging part of this framework isn’t what happens step-by-step, it’s ignoring the self doubt that rises in between. As such, this shouldn’t be viewed as a one-and-done process, either.

Once you get into the swing of things, condition yourself to repeat steps 2-3 in an effort to achieve consistent improvement, iteration, and creativity.

The rest will sort itself out.

Explore –> Define –> Question –> Improve –> Fulfill yourself & others

Don’t try to start at the end.

Social media has created a tendency in our culture to only share the outcome of our work.

Specifically in the realm of entrepreneurship, it’s led to the popularization of topics like generating passive income, and/or becoming a digital nomad. And while these are all fantastic outputs, they all require an intensive amount of input first.

Want to have passive income? Build actively for it.

Want to become a digital nomad? Find your remote working opportunity first, then travel.

We all start somewhere. Your job is to find that place with the potential baked into it to lead you to your end goal.

Don’t get stuck coming up with great ideas.

Thinking of extra features, use cases, etc. for your latest idea is incredibly easy to do. However, as soon as your idea is born, it’s time to shift your mindset away from ideation and towards validation.

When confronted with a new idea, stop there and think:

  • Who is my idea built to serve?
  • What steps I can take to validate it with them?
  • How can I complete those steps as quickly and effectively as possible?

Come up with your idea, shift to validation, and uncover the real problems your idea is capable of solving. Then you can start building.

Ideate –> Validate –> Fulfill yourself & others

How to get things done.

Once you’ve truly decided to do something, it’s done.

Achievements are less a reflection of our ability as they are a reflection of our decisions.

The difficult part in accomplishing your goals is whittleing down your lofty ideas into a sequence of actionable decisions.

Become a pro at this and the work will get itself done.

Share the obvious.

What’s obvious to you isn’t necessarily obvious for everyone.

Sometimes sharing the ‘obvious’ is enough to get those around you excited. What’s obvious to you, and how can you share that in a way which excites others?

Start there, then carve out a path for yourself over time. One with a healthy mix of obvious and unknown.

Similarity: where the unknown and familiar intersect.

Similar people do similar things in similar places at similar times. Knowing this prevents fear in unpredictability.

No matter how isolating something different or new to you can seem, if it’s what you’re meant to do, the right people will be there.

Don’t allow the unknown to create discomfort in your decisions, let it get you excited for finding the people you belong with.

Allow intention to fuel your ideas.

The foundation of any impactful idea is rooted in intention.

In beginning with intention, you can leave room to pivot, refocus, and adjust when necessary.

Rather than aiming to build a specific idea out, look to achieve a goal that can be accomplished with numerous different ideas.

Ideating with intention becomes much more streamlined, too. The finish line has been decided, now it’s time to pick a path.

If an idea doesn’t pan out, that’s ok. The vision is still there for you work towards.

Decide on a goal that’s bigger than yourself, then come up with your ideas.

Intention —> ideation —> fulfillment

Erase friction to foster loyalty.

As someone who gets angrier over little annoyances than actual problems, friction is a nightmare.

For designers, marketers, and entrepreneurs, removing friction lies at the core of how you provide value.

Once this point of clarity reaches you, things begin to disappear:

  • Pushy popups
  • Countdown timers
  • Aggressive sales emails

What replaces them?

  • Help centers
  • Educational content & resources
  • Customer success teams

Sure, some friction-loaded tactics get short-term results, but the loyalty doesn’t stick. If the pre-purchase experience is packed with friction, odds are the post-purchase experience is, too.

Prioritize reducing friction first. The loyalty, word-of-mouth, and satisfaction you’ve been chasing will follow suit.

Reduce friction –> Prioritize positive experiences –> Fulfill yourself & others

Avoid burnout, create a mindset goal.

People tend to romanticize overworking.

Some examples:

  • ‘Hustle every day’
  • ‘You’ll sleep when you’re dead’
  • ‘Work today so you can retire rich’
  • ‘ABC: Always be closing’
  • ‘Wake up at 3:00am, and be ahead of the game’
  • ‘Time is money’

The issue: work is only one small piece of your entire life.

Some other pieces that exist:

  • Family
  • Friends
  • Hobbies
  • Food
  • Sleep
  • Art
  • Love

Dropping everything you’re working on isn’t the solution. Simply avoid becoming a work-machine, endlessly turning inputs into outputs.

Relieve the pressure to perform and you’ll see an improvement in your quality of work. Decrease the stress and exhaustion, and your reward will be an increase in creativity and focus.

An easy way to get started is to create a mindset goal. A place where you’d like your mind to be set when you’re working.

My personal mindset goal?

Always be in a place where I can just have fun with it. Once I shift my mindset to just having fun, the true work reveals itself.

If I stop having fun, I take a break. If I can’t have fun, the work’s not for me.

What’s yours?

Shift your mindset –> Create –> Fulfill yourself & others

Head or heart: which one do you listen to?

Often, the head and the heart are discussed within conflict of each other.

Your head, centered around logic & rationale, may want you to build a successful career. But your heart, centered around passion & intuition wants you to travel the world.

Which one do you listen to?

Truthfully, the most powerful lifestyles, come when the two are working together, not in opposition.

When you only use your head you:

  • Settle on ‘stable’ work.
  • Hate the daily grind, but love vacation.
  • Oppose creativity in fear of isolation.

When you only use your heart you:

  • Struggle financially.
  • Know what you want, but not how to get it.
  • Become a ‘starving artist.’

When you listen to your head & your heart you:

  • Succeed because of your ‘unique’ skillset & background.
  • Have what you need and give what you don’t.
  • Live a life that feels like an endless dream.

Use your heart to tell you what you need to be fulfilled, and your head to make those aspirations possible. Done correctly, you’ll see there’s no reason why you should just listen to one or the other. The two are equally crucial to your fulfillment.

Think ‘yin & yang’, not ‘this or that.’

Listen to your heart –> Use your head –> Fulfill yourself & others

Avoid hypotheticals, just start.

When starting (or thinking about starting) a new project, hypotheticals are an incredibly effective way to stifle your progress.

Anxiety loves creating excuses to stop us from carrying forward on our ambitions.

“What if ABC happens?”

Just start.

“What if XYZ happens?”

Just start.

In starting, you’ll find that most of the concerns your mind has developed as a by-product of hypotheticals, were either:

  • Irrelevant.
  • Easy to solve once equipped with the knowledge you’ve gained from making progress.

So, just start working on that incredible idea of yours and have fun doing it.

Your concerns will sort themselves out along the way.

Start —> Learn —> Fulfill yourself & others

Want to innovate? Facilitate impactful stories.

The job of any innovation is to facilitate impactful stories.

Everyone is unique, and this applies evenly to our experiences. Particularly with products, businesses, marketing, and innovation.

Though you can put your best effort into pre-determining a specific storyline, or even a set of storylines, innovation occurs when an environment is created for impactful stories tell themselves.

Arm & Hammer didn’t initially advertise their baking soda as a way to keep your fridge fresh. But, as the story created itself, they helped facilitate it and earned a new product-line in the process.

If your emphasis is on serving a specific group of people, aim less to predict their storyline, and more to assist & improve it.

Pillars of an environment which facilitates impactful stories:

  • Exceptional service
  • Frictionless interfaces
  • Limitless education
  • Transparency
  • Devotion to crowdsourcing feedback
  • Constant improvement
  • A journey-driven mindset

Stick to these pillars and your product can become an innovation.

Build –> Innovate –> Fulfill yourself & others

Transparency-first, progress next.

Life is much easier when you’re an open book. Honest, intent, transparent.

The same applies in business. When your business is completely open with how it’s performing, operating, and growing, everything becomes much easier.

A few by-products of transparency:

  • Trust
  • Support
  • Fandom
  • The ability to crowdsource live feedback
  • A story that tells itself
  • A brand that feels human
  • A community who learns & takes inspiration from you

The most impactful way I’ve seen a transparency-first approach executed is through transparency reports.

Every quarter, write down what your goals were, how you performed, and what you’re planning to do next. Product roadmaps fit in nicely to this, too. Once you’re done, take it live and share. Email your lists, put a banner on your homepage announcing it, open the floor for comments.

It may feel hard in the moment, but your transparency will pay for itself.

Share –> Iterate –> Fulfill yourself & others

Mitigating opportunity scarcity.

Opportunity scarcity is not a myth.

But, it can be mitigated over time, and in more than one way. My preferred method is contribution. Via contribution, frequent & fulfilling opportunities will begin to present themselves.

Contribution can be performed in multiple ways be it outward, and inward.

Outward contribution can include:

  • Answering questions
  • Offering advice
  • Educating
  • Donating
  • Volunteering
  • Listening
  • Smiling

Inward contribution can include:

  • Starting that project you’ve been thinking about
  • Quitting something that doesn’t fill you up
  • Exploring your hobbies
  • Following through on your passions
  • Travelling
  • Meditating
  • Exercising
  • Eating healthier
  • Smiling

Whatever steps you take, include contribution in your plan and the opportunities will follow-suit.

Plan –> Contribute –> Fulfill yourself & others

What’s your free hot chocolate?

Last week, I walked past a stand giving free hot chocolate.

Too sweet a deal to pass on, I asked for a cup expecting Swiss Miss inside. What came next was maybe the best hot chocolate I’d ever had. Definitely the best I’d had in years, home made with fresh ingredients and filled to the brim.

I looked up to notice they were also selling cookies. ‘Nothing beats dipping a cookie in some great hot chocolate’. I bought two cookies & left a much happier person than I had been before my walk.

Reflecting on this experience:

  1. Always have free hot chocolate to give away.
  2. Producing your free hot chocolate should be low-cost, but it should be high in quality and perceived value.
  3. Your free hot chocolate is a reflection of your reputation, ability, and generosity.
  4. Have your cookies next to your free hot chocolate, ready to buy.
  5. Done correctly, your buyers will feel happier and more fulfilled than before they tried your free hot chocolate.

Give hot chocolate –> Sell cookies –> Fulfill yourself & others

Marketers: the value translators.

Marketers are the value translators of any innovation.

Repurposing what the entrepreneur has built, and the designer has characterized, into a digestible & transferrable message.

Some defining components of weak vs. strong value translators:

  • Weak value translators are confusing, long-winded, and monolingual
    • Confusing = Translating the wrong details in the wrong places at the wrong time for the wrong people.
    • Long-winded = Translating too many details while using complex jargon and buzzwords.
    • Monolingual = Translating for an audience with a singular & rigid journey.
  • Strong value translators are clear, concise, and multilingual
    • Clear = Translating the right ideas in the right places at the right time for the right people.
    • Concise = Translating only what matters with simplicity.
    • Multilingual = Translating for an audience with different, elastic journeys.

Depending on the skill of the marketer, these goals can be accomplished by leveraging and personalizing facets like advertising, copy, and packaging.

Selling, however, is not to be leveraged. Just as it is not the job of any translator, selling is not the job of the marketer.

Build –> Characterize –> Translate

The art of the question.

One of the first things I learned studying anthropology: 90% of good answers come from good questions.

Whether it’s in something you’re creating, your daily interactions, or both, asking the right questions (and a lot of them) will always yield better results.

When someone wants you to do something, ask them exactly how they want it done. When someone tells you they don’t like your product, ask them what they specifically don’t like about it.

Get an answer, then follow up with more questions. Keep following up until you know everything you possibly can. Then, follow through.

In the moment, it’ll raise eyebrows to most. Your intelligence will be questioned. People will think you’re messing with them. If you’re with friends, they’ll call you weird.

Committing to the art of the question will feel unusual at first. But, you’ll grow to love it. Because, your results will begin to speak for themselves.

Having the right answers is knowledge. Knowledge is power, and power can be exchanged for fulfillment in yourself and others.

Ask questions –> Deliver answers –> Fulfill yourself & others