To stand out in the world, master a skill. Yes, become the master in a niche! In this episode I want to talk and follow up from last time. Last time I talked about becoming an authority. I mentioned that to become an authority you’re going to have to have some special skill, trade, whatever it is. Not only a niche, but you’re going to have to become a master. That is, you’re going to have to be that person that somebody admires and other people want to gain your information. That also puts you in an excellent competitive situation when it comes to other people around you trying to do the same things.
Why do you want to do this? Sometimes it might be self-esteem, it might be a feeling of adequacy, a feeling of need that other people have for you or towards you. It may be that you want to escape from the humdrum of your daily life, you want to be something special. One of the least important ones actually is probably money. Yes, you want it, you desire it, you would like to make more, and you’d like to be more secure (and that last one, secure, is the key). But all those get satisfied by what you do, how you do it, and how well other people think you are doing it, and that you have the confidence because you know you do it well. It’s not something easy, and it can be overwhelming.
So, what do you do? First of all, whatever it is, deconstruct it. That is: Break it down into pieces so that you can learn parts of it at a time, and commit yourself to realize that it’s going to take many, many hours, days, weeks, months, whatever, to get to the level you want to be at. That’s the overwhelming part. You break it down, you put in your time, and you slowly get it into pieces and chunks. The multi-year project of doing a dissertation when I was at Berkeley, it is overwhelming. As you’re doing it, what you’re trying to do is trying to break down: How can I get this monstrous thing done? And you have the pressure because you also want to graduate, get your degree, and all that other neat stuff. So, what do you do? You break it down into the parts and the research, and you break that into different pieces. Then even when you get to the writing you do the same thing. When I got to the writing it was little bits and pieces, little chapters or sections that were going to be written, and I would commit to just drive it right down inside two hours, get that one section written no matter how it was, just quickly brain dump it from my notes. Then take a 10-15 minute break, do something else, go back to that section the next day when it’s gone through my mind, I’ve refined it, and get it better and better.
What happens is you’re breaking these things up, and you’re looking back on them, saying: “Gee, I had a success. I did that chapter, that one, and that one,” so that you’re having repeated successes, and that gets you down to the point that you can master the topic. Why? Because you’ve had 17, 1700, whatever it is, successes along the path of developing that skill. Visualize yourself actually doing it, that is gain yourself some confidence. As you gain that confidence, make sure that you have that confidence with humility. The reason I say with humility is because realize that things are changing, they’re always getting better, bigger, faster, whatever, and that humility gets you to learn more and keep on refining your skill. You’re going to have to weather classes, courses, and all kinds of other things that you’re going to have to go through in order to feel very comfortable.
Best of all, of course, is to find a mentor, somebody that is already truly a master. Because what’s the key that I tell people open and have said many times? Master what the master has already done. If you can do that, then you’re well on your way. Questions are really good, and you should feel free to ask questions. Actually a good example, I was a little cautious of this at first and figured: “Oh no, I’m just going to go ahead. I don’t really care.” When I used to be invited into Microsoft when they were first developing Windows architecture courses, etc., I asked some questions, and I would usually start out by saying: “I know this may sound like a dumb question, pardon me, but I just don’t quite understand,” and I would state it out.
The interesting thing is that one of the toughest courses I ever had that I asked many of those questions, I figured: “Okay, I’m probably looking like a fool,” was actually with somebody who you will see on my website. Now, keep in mind I thought I was probably going to be looking pretty much like a fool, asking these questions. It’s on the website, he wrote on LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.: “Thomas is one of the most brilliant and competent marketing analysts I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. Creative, innovative, dedicated.” So don’t worry. Asking questions actually helps you look good. Don’t ask questions without thinking through them. Try to figure out something, and then ask an intelligent question.
What did I do when I attended those courses? I had the courseware. The night before each day of class (and the class was literally all day, five days of the week), I would take the courseware and go through what I thought was going to be reviewed and done that next day, and figured out all the things I didn’t understand. So I already had a preconceived notion of what I should really be asking a question about. Then I was hoping for explanations. If I still didn’t understand something, I asked it. Why? Because I wanted to truly understand the details of what the causality is. What is the underlying thing? So that I could answer any question that was asked of me.
Which gets to another point. You’ve heard the expression: Those who can do, those who can’t teach – that is one of the dumbest statements, but it satisfies a huge number of average people out there that really can’t do something well. This is what I say: At Berkeley, and when we were in training at Microsoft, teaching is what really sets things apart. Why? Because you have to be able to answer any question that comes back to you. You also have to be able to look it up if you don’t know it. Either way, you learn everything there is to do it. I’m not talking about junior high school or high school, or maybe something else, but in technical fields in highly advanced topics in highly advanced situations, you’re expected to be able to answer everything. That truly is a way, and you should think of it that way so that when you do teach and you teach others, that’s really where you’ll gain further expertise.
So you want to become literally obsessed with not only mastering the topic, but teaching others. When I say “obsessed,” it’s kind of a funny thing. There was a time at Hofstra University when I was studying alone in the library, and there was a group of kids that knew me, my age, that were off to the side. As I got done and I was packing up, one guy, Paul, called me over and said: “Tom, do you mind answering a question?” I said: “No, not at all.” He said: “What do you do? How do you do so well? How do you get everything together?” I said: “Well, you guys are all sitting here, trying to discuss and figure out what you need to know. I try to figure out what I don’t know.”
Let me say that again in a different way. Most people out there are trying to figure out what they can get by with, what is good enough rather than truly mastering a subject or a topic. Know what you don’t know, and try to find the answers to it. This means you’re going to become highly disciplined as you do it, you’re going to have to, though, also develop a tremendous amount of patience. Why? Because there’s going to be many things that you’re going to have a tough time figuring out.
The funny thing about that is people play games and they have trouble with them, and they get really frustrated, etc., but they figure them out and they get through them. (see how to make life a game) This is something that’s really important to you, and really makes a difference in your life and your satisfaction with yourself. Shouldn’t you show that same patience and obstinance to find the answer? Yeah, you’re going to have many failures and many mistakes, etc., but that’s just part of learning. Slowly figuring out what you need is truly a special thing.
I mentioned in the authority episode how all of a sudden that right after I did the episode I ran into a couple of people who didn’t seem to know some of the basics. How did I realize that, figure it out? It was exactly that way. I asked questions, trying to figure out a couple of things to do with Facebook, Facebook ads, Power Editor, etc., some of the back workings of doing marketing through Facebook, and people who were supposed to know didn’t. That said a lot to me.
You want to be the person who, when somebody asks a question, comes right through and has the answer. This also means you have to have motivation. You can get motivation in many different ways, through yourself, or through things where you gather on Facebook groups or other things, or other places where this specialty exists so that over time you get that feeling and that satisfaction of having it done and doing it well. Good luck.
Love to have your feedback, love to know more about what you are doing, what you are trying to do, and maybe I can help. Maybe, if nothing else, I can give you a comment, a direction, or paths to take. Send me a note, PM me or whichever. Will you acquire or master a skill for your business or competitive advantage. Thank you very much.