I fucked up. Again.
This isn’t the article I was going to write. In fact, I said I wouldn’t write this article at all.
Why? Because it’s what everyone writes. I tend to zig when everyone else zags.
I’ve always been rebellious which often makes life interesting as an introvert. But we’re all screwed up in our special cupcake way, right?
Except we’re not. Special, I mean. We are all screwed up!
But I digress.
To connect with your audience it’s super important to write about how you are feeling as well as about what you are thinking.
Resonating with creativity is about how you feel X what you think = deep connection.
The Fucked Up Club
So, two weeks ago Professor Amy Edmondson from The Harvard Business School posted my article 👆 on LinkedIn.
And it went super viral. (Thanks again, Amy 🙏 — and Tom for sending it to Amy)
21,200 read the article, 1,298 new people subscribed ( Hiya 👋), and 3 new personal branding strategy clients who are thought leaders wanting to build their audiences.
They’re introverts. All my clients are. I didn’t decide this. The market did. That’s an important insight into content marketing in service industries.
Be real, talk openly about stuff others daren’t talk about, even when it doesn’t make much sense at the time.
You don’t choose your audience, they choose you.
The Surface Area Of Your Luck
Going viral is flukey.
It’s serendipity in all its fabulous and spectacular glory.
It's not sustainable but there are strategies that you can apply to increase the surface area of your luck.
These strategies are used in hit records, best-selling books, and Hollywood blockbusters.
I’ve had a couple of dozen viral articles on Reddit.
I built personal brands and managed artists and DJs who had 49 top 40 hits including 16 top 10 hit records and No.1 hit singles and albums.
I feel I’m reasonably qualified to discuss the topic of virality. Although I always refer to the principles of the top dog of virality, Professor Jonah Berger
But first, let’s talk about fucking up.
When one has a hit the natural tendency is to try and milk it. Keep the gravy train wheels in motion. Basically, write The Fucked Up Club Part Deux.
That’s what everyone does.
I tried. But I fucked it up. So I wrote this article instead.
And I’m not alone.
64% of all hit records on the Billboard chart over six decades were one-hit wonders.
The reasons for this are plentiful but the main cause is loss aversion bias. Loss aversion means we fear loss more than the joy of gaining.
I have seen this happen scores of times over the last 25 years.
After a hit, our status is elevated.
And we’re shit scared of losing it. Self-doubt kicks in. That cranks up the pressure. We overthink our content and force our creativity.
We try and squeeze square pegs into round creative holes. This is a really dumb strategy as content that connects is created in flow — and not force.
All great content is created in flow state. If you can’t get into flow then you will never create great content.
Sorry. That’s just the way the creative cookie crumbles.
Don’t blame me, take it up with the universe.
Stop writing for your audience
This sounds counterintuitive, right?
I’m always banging on about serving your audience.
But the worst thing you can do is write for them.
I have a broad subscriber list. I have artists, accountants, creators, millionaire CEOs, multi-platinum grammy-winning producers, and now professors from Harvard, Yale, and Cambridge on the mailing list.
That is flattering. But, more so, it’s absolutely fucking terrifying!
My imposter syndrome is bigger than a big thing at the biggest ever convention for big things. But it’s just bullshit in my head.
We all live in our own thought-based reality. Imposter syndrome is just one of the many forms of self-sabotaging bollocks that crush our creativity.
I’m way out of my comfort zone and that’s a good thing.
After all, as I wrote in the original article, while I’d rather not fuck up. I am at peace with fucking up. You see, fucking up is just another step closer to not fucking up.
So I put on my big boy creative pants and I move forward. But this is not something I was able to do when I was younger.
I used alcohol to mask my introversion tendencies and imposter syndrome. This was a terrible idea and led to multiple fuck ups, and the occasional funny story.
The more you try and fit in the more you feel left out.
I know loads of successful introverts who followed the same path and sadly not all of them got off it.
So, yeah, don’t do that. Just understand imposter syndrome is normal. If you’re not feeling it then you’re standing still and basically rusting away.
My most successful clients, the ones that look like they have their shit together, are the ones who often suffer the most.
The more we have, the more we have to lose, right?
Write content for yourself
You can only create content that inspires. Intrinsic motivation is the foundation of flow.
When you are creating for your audience you’re seeking validation, trying to please everyone, and that’s a dangerous game to play.
You start overthinking, struggle to make creative decisions, which blocks your flow.
You start to caveat and dilute your content. You stop taking risks. You start creating bland, beige work so you won’t get rejected.
You lose the cutting edge that got you noticed in the first place.
To connect deeply with your audience you must first connect deeply with yourself.
Scratch your own itch. Talk about your challenges. Talk about your emotions. Create with empathy and without ego.
It’s like the oxygen masks in planes. First, you save yourself and then you are free to save others.
This is easier said than done but critical in generating content worth sharing.
Not everyone will get it. And that’s okay. But if you try to please everyone then no one will get it.
I love this concept.
Mohnish Pabrai wrote about it in his book, The Dhandho Investor. Pabrai explains it as “heads I win, tails I don’t lose much.”
Nassim Taleb also talks about it in his New York Times Bestselling book, Anti-fragile and Black Swan.
Asymmetrical opportunities are low-cost investments that rarely come off but yield huge returns when they do.
I used this strategy to get a band signed to Sony Music. I simply sent every Major Label Boss a demo in the post.
I was told it was a stupid idea as Managing Directors don’t listen to unsolicited demos.
This was true.
Except for the MD of Epic Records. He listened. And signed the band. They sold millions of albums, had # 1 records, and sold out arenas across the UK.
My investment was under $20 in postage and a couple of hours of my time.
It was an asymmetrical opportunity that worked.
99% don’t. Creating content is an asymmetrical opportunity to build your personal brand and increase your surface area of luck.
I’m not luckier than anyone else. I just know how to increase the surface area of my luck. 👇
Everything Is a Remix
Everything has been created. There are no original ideas.
Stealing other people’s hit ideas and blending them together to create something new is the essence of creativity.
This is a creative strategy called conceptual blending 👈
I do this all the time. So does Quentin Tarantino. So does every artist I’ve ever had hits with.
Bowie did it. Picasso did it. Steve Jobs did it.
It’s not plagiarising. It’s re-creating something new by combining old ideas together.
"There is no such thing as a new idea. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope." — Mark Twain
The Fucked Up Club Process
Here’s a breakdown of the creative process to get your content to stand out and get noticed.
I had wanted to write about psychological safety for a few months but it has been written about literally millions of times. 👇
I needed to find a new angle.
The first thing I did was read the top 10 results on Google. It’s all very good content but it’s saying the same thing, in the same manner, with the same language.
Once you know what everyone is saying; do the opposite.
“Invert, always invert” — Carl Jacobi
When I’m creating content I use thought experiments to get my creative juices flowing.
- “What do people want to say but daren’t?”
I got this from a copywriter called Dan Kelsall. Cheers Dan. 👍
Most people I know refer to failures as fuck ups. Fight Club is one of my favourite movies. I had always wanted to use it in a blog post.
The Fucked Up Club was an easy connection.
Then I blended this concept with Mark Manson’s “ The Subtle Art Of Fucking Up” blog post. I chose this as it was already a proven viral hit in both blog and book form.
This naturally increases the chances of virality 👆 Cheers Mark 👍
It’s also one of the best blog posts I’ve ever read.
I referenced and quoted all sources throughout the article so I wasn’t hiding the sources of my idea theft. Instead, I leaned into them.
Then I created a strategy board to flesh it all out. Looking for ways to increase sharability.
This is where Jonah Berger’s principles kick in. Cheers Jonah 👍
That’s the thinking part done.
The feeling part was being vulnerable about my fuck ups.
I have no problems with being vulnerable. I started this blog as a way to process my emotions during a rather nasty and brutal burnout.
As an introvert, I am used to deep thought and an intense emotional world. It took me a long time to realise they are superpowers and not kryptonite.
I tap into both these superpowers to write thought-provoking content with empathy.
My thought experiment for this is:
- “what truths can I write that will help readers feel understood?”
This is the most powerful question to stir the empathy pot for me.
I am writing for myself but mirroring the reader’s thoughts. Everyone has fucked up and everyone has felt internal shame about their fuck ups.
I wanted to help readers own their fuck ups. I wanted them to know that we all felt the same shame and that’s okay.
I wanted them to feel understood. That it wasn’t just them.
This meant that the article resonated with a lot of people.
I know this because it a) it resonated with me and b) I received loads of lovely messages from people who felt the same. Thank you all.
So there you have it.
To connect deeply with your audience you must first connect deeply with yourself.
Thanks for reading. See you in two weeks.
Takeaways to increase the surface area of your luck
- Find a popular topic you want to write about
- Read the top 10 results on Google. Chances are they’re all saying the same thing and using the same language
- Do the opposite. Stand out in saturated markets by doing the opposite of what the market is doing.
- Combine your concept with other viral/successful ideas to create something new
- Use thought experiments/ prompts to create a tone/ style that stands: “What do people want to say but daren’t?!”
- Use Professor Jonah Berger’s principles of virality
- Create with empathy and without ego ( the former is easy, the latter is very difficult)
- Use thought experiments/ prompts to generate empathy “ What truths can I write that will help the reader feel understood?”
- Promote your work far and wide
- Know that almost everything you create will NOT have an impact and learn to be okay with that :)
- Cross your fingers and hope for the fucking best 🤞