My friend Dwain and I meet regularly, about every 6 weeks or so. We catch up on what we’ve been up to, how business is going, what crazy ideas I’ve come up with this week.
But this isn’t just a social coffee, our main aim is to hold each other to account. It’s so easy when you are self-directed to, well, loose a bit of direction. When you don’t meet your goals there’s generally no one who’s going to pull you up on it or help motivate you to push forward.
So it’s really valuable to have someone or several people to answer to, to keep you moving forward and talk through what you’re looking to do next.
At our last meeting we began to explore what exactly it is that you need to create or grow a business and how we get our actions to align with where we want to go.
For me this boiled down to two, really simple things, that have been showing up again and again in people’s blogs, on social media and through countless discussions with other entrepreneurs.
Creating anything doesn’t have to be complicated or have a secret remedy that only the lucky few know about. In essence, it just involves you being consistent at something. It’s really that simple.
From these two things grows everything else; skill, authenticity, collaboration, a community/tribe and success (however you define it).
Start today, quality comes later
No one is an expert when they start out and being a novice is great. It allows you to get curious, investigate, be naive and act without expectation from anyone. But the most important thing to do is simply to start doing whatever it is you want to do. If you want to write a blog that creates a tribal following, start writing and publishing regularly; if you want to be a world champion paddleboarder, learn to paddleboard in your local stretch of water and practice regularly. Whatever it is, the sooner you start being consistently rubbish at it, the sooner you’ll start getting consistently good or even great at it.
If you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve not started early enough
It’s easy to delay launch, wait until you’ve polished that blog post a bit more before you put it out there into the world. But you should be embarrassed by the first version. Nothing is ever perfect. Start today, get it out there and iterate. Repeat, again and again. It’s the act of consistently going public that will hep you move forward, not the state of being “perfect” - whatever that is.
Think of it not as starting a business, but as running an experiment - take small steps each day to keep the experiment going
It’s easy when you start a business for it to become your baby. It can feel like it becomes a reflection of you, and if there’s something wrong with it, if it’s not perfect, may be you’re not perfect. Well, guess what. You are not your business.
When you think of it just as a side project, this little thing you’re giving a go because it seems cool, you put a lot less pressure on yourself. Thinking of it as a side project in the early days enables to you to be more objective, to launch before you or it is ready and to be brave enough to promote it when it requires promoting. This freedom will help you be more consistent in pushing forward day in day out, each small step at a time, until you turn around and realise how far you’ve come. Give it a try, it’s all in the mind set.
Doing it regularly helps to build a community and engage your audience
Nowadays most of us want to build a community of some sort into which to sell our product/service. Communities or tribes are awesome, I love them. The value of a group of like-minded people is huge to the group’s members and creating a successful one is a big achievement. But the first step in creating a tribe or following is to be a crazy person dancing in a field.
If you get up, half-heartedly dance a little bit in a self concious, “may be I’m not qualified to do this” kind of way and then quickly sit down again, people won’t join you. They’ll probably just ignore you.
But if you believe that this is the way forward and dance consistently - even if you do it really really badly to start with - someone will start dancing with you eventually. Now keep dancing, regularly, and embrace each new member of your community.
Don’t worry too much about fitting into what a platform is used for, just be consistent about putting things out
With so many different ways to put yourself out there it can be difficult to know which one to choose. In my experience it doesn’t matter too much to start with. Since I started blogging I’ve been publishing posts on Facebook, Twitter, Medium, my website and LinkedIn. Interestingly, given I blog mainly about adventure and more personal views rather than core business issues, I’ve found LinkedIn to be a great platform with a fair number of likes and shares for my first few months of blogging. So the lesson here is just to start, try different platforms and see what works for you. Which is where we come on to the only other thing you need to build anything - you!
Yes, tag on to trends or cover topics that have been covered before, but be sure to tell your story/insight/point of view
While you are not your business, you are it’s biggest asset. Your unique collection of experiences, tastes, approaches, views and opinions are what make whatever it is you’re doing relateable, human and interesting.
Therefore the only difference between the endless generic tips and the content that will most likely resonate with your readers/customers/employees, is you.
There’s always a new post on the top 10 tips for this, the best 5 ways to do that, but there is only one person with your view on the world. It is the stories we live and tell that people want to hear. They want to know how it’s worked for you, how did you find it, what’s your take on the new development. Own your story - sharing it gives you something unique.
You are unique, interesting and your opinion is as valid as anyone else's, don’t be afraid to speak out
Sometimes it can be a little overwhelming with the amount of content out there. I want to talk about a particular topic, but x person says it so well, how could I say anything new? Why would anyone want to read what I have to say? Wouldn’t I just be repeating what’s already been said?
No. You are totally unique. No one has had the same life experience as you, you just need to find your voice and the confidence to explore your view on the world. You don’t need to offer up a redefining view on a topic, it just needs to reflect you.
May be people will read it and it will go viral, they’ll love your take on it and you’ll become a blogging superstar (or whatever it is you’re trying to become). Or may be just one person will read your story and not like, comment or share it. Either way it’s your story and it’s as valid as anyone else’s. Through the process of consistently making it public, you’ll build a confidence in who you are and start to attract the people who do find your story worth liking.
Not everyone will like your content, but you’re not trying to connect with everyone, right, so it doesn’t matter
When you do put yourself out there you might get the odd person who questions you, who thinks you’ve got it all wrong, they might tell you that’s not how the industry works or that you’re a bit crazy. But that’s OK. Don’t take their worries, their fears and their bias, as fact. They just don’t see things the same way as you. It’s good to be different.
This is particularly true when people give you advice. Advice is just one person’s experience of life, you don’t have to take it, particularly when you didn’t ask for it in the first place. Get to know yourself, find out what your ethics are and how you want to approach life. It’s the real you that people will connect with. Don’t be afraid to show it.
Find new experiences to grow your view point
In order to share your story you need to keep developing it. Wherever you are in your life, there’s so much more still to come. Lean into it. Challenge yourself, try new things, say no to the rubbish stuff that pulls you down and yes to the great stuff that lifts you up. This is particularly true with people. Surround yourself with awesome people who challenge, support and lift you up.
When you push yourself and experience life outside of your comfort zone, this is where the magic happens, where you grow, get to know who you are and what matters to you. Do this consistently and you’ll soon develop the confidence to tell your story as it flourishes.