We live in a culture of easy answers. We’re drawn to a blog post titled, “5 Tips to Solve Every Problem You Have in 5 Seconds” truly believing that this fantastic claim could possibly hold any truth. We figure that by using these tips we’ll suddenly gain the same level of success as the author. We even put these tips into use for a whole two weeks and then seem entirely astonished that success doesn’t follow.
When faced with this lack of instant success we don’t tell ourselves the truth — that success is going to take years of hard work and perseverance. Instead, we go looking for some other ‘successful’ person’s five tips to solve everything so that we can implement those tips for two weeks.
Finding a niche
Once a week I get an email from someone asking how to find the niche they should be in. They say they’ve been trying and it’s hard, so what’s the one thing I would do to find my niche right now? I always respond that they should read Book Yourself Solid and do the work. Almost invariably I get one of two responses. Either they’ve read the book but didn’t do the work or, three weeks later I hear that they read the first chapter and don’t have the time to do the work.
The question is the same. They want to know if I have a faster method.
We’ve all heard the story that it takes 10,000 hours1 to become an expert at something, but that’s not the full story. If you look back at the study from which that phrase came, it really takes 10,000 hours of deliberate, focused practice to become good at something.
Note I used the word deliberate there. If you want to get good at a sport, it’s not just playing the sport. It’s practicing the movements you have trouble with and breaking them down into the parts you need to improve, and then intentionally working hard to make those movements better. Simply showing up and playing street basketball every day for a few hours will not make you NBA-worthy in 10k hours. Even breaking things down on your own is not the best way to excel. You need someone who can see the things you struggle with and provide feedback on the changes that need to be made2.
In your business, trying those five tips from a blog post for two weeks is not deliberate practice. Though most people fool themselves that it is.
Charles Darwin had the first components of his famous theory of evolution in 1838 but didn’t publish what we know today until 1959. He spent the years between looking at his theory of evolution on the side while he published works about coral reefs and a number of books on geology. Einstein worked on his theory of special relativity for 10 years.
I began to narrow my niche once I really started to do the work in Book Yourself Solid, and it took me six months to start to get narrow enough. It then took me another 12 months to really get into the niche and get lots of referrals for the work I wanted.
That’s 18 months of work, and I still don’t think sitting here years later that I’m tight enough in my niche. I still think I could narrow it more, make my marketing tighter, and out of that charge more for projects I like. In fact, I just decided there is more work I won’t do this week as I tighten my niche.
Every 12 months I go through the initial work in Book Yourself Solid and afterward I cut some of my clients and tweak how I think about my niche.
If you’re tempted to email me and ask for a three-second, two-step solution that will miraculously reveal your niche and make your business into what you’ve always wanted — Don’t bother!!! I don’t have it and it doesn’t exist.
If you want to rise above your peers and charge more and work for awesome clients you love on projects that are interesting, start doing the damn work.
Simply by sitting down and answering some questions about your business out of Book Yourself Solid you’ll land in the top few percentage points of business owners. Most of your peers are too lazy to do the work you’re doing.
If you take those questions and start to put together a basic marketing plan, like writing content targeted specifically at your niche, you’ve again pulled yourself above most of your peers.
The only thing that’s going to get you ahead in business is doing hard work every day. Do the work that no one else has the time for. Do it every day for years and you’ll look back and all that work you’ve done will have amounted to a legacy you can be proud of.
If you just let yourself look for quick fixes be prepared to have the same crappy business you have now.
- This was popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers. ↩︎
- There is a great podcast on how the 10k hours rule has been misunderstood. Go listen to it. ↩︎