There’s this unfortunate delusion that’s been sold in the world of entrepreneurship, especially in the online space…

The road to growth is paved with content. Write, film, record, and produce killer content. Put it out there, and the world will rush to your doorstep.

You don’t have to put your “self” out there anymore, just put your content out there. #boom. #success. #winning!

But, then, there’s that nagging little thing called… reality.

Forget the fact that I hate the word content for the moment. The problem with this strategy and the claims that go along with it, is that it preys on a particular fear, and it’s based on a lie.

The fear is exposure and judgment. We’re terrified of exposing ourselves to “in the flesh” failure and rejection. We don’t want to go “out there,” be “in the room” or even “in the world” when the lightbulbs don’t go on and everything we’ve worked to create falls flat. It’s easier to just put our “content” out into that scary space. That way, we can stay cloistered and protected in our little content creation caves and have everyone come running to us. If it fails, it’ll still hurt, but not nearly as badly as if we’d been face to face, talking to someone and being rejected by them out there in the bountiful, yet exposed badlands.

We tell ourselves, when people reject content, it’s about an idea. When they reject conversation it’s about us. And, it’s easier to handle a failed idea than a denied self. So, we hide. Not just behind an idea, but behind the screens that serve as both a shield and a sword. Because, we’re afraid of being in the room when the other shoe falls.

So, that’s the fear. But, what about the lie?

The big content fib is that it’s the end-all, be-all. It’s that content done well is all you need.

Content, we’re told, is king. It’s a fantastic mechanism to build an idea into a platform, a brand, a reputation, position, entity, business or organization. This, in fact, is a partial truth. Crafted, curated and distributed in the right way, over a window of time, it can make a huge difference. I’ve leverage the power of editorial, video and audio to build what I’m here to build with great effect…over 8 years. And, I will continue to do more and more of it.

That said, with the exception of the unicorn-rare and largely non-reproducible viral outlier, content is more about sustained growth, positioning, trust and, yes, eventually, leads, than it is a high-probability vehicle for launch and accelerated growth. It’s important, but increasingly, I wonder if it’s also a way to hide from the other piece of the launch and growth pie. The hustle side of the equation.

Content is your long-game, but hustle is your now game.

And, by hustle, I’m talking old-school, or what the cool kids now call “outbound” marketing. That includes things like:

  • Street teams
  • Guerrilla marketing
  • Advertising (yes, despite rumors of its demise, it still works)
  • Hosting and attending meet-ups, gatherings and events
  • Engineering publicity opportunities
  • Speaking to the right people, in the right place, about the right things
  • Building and participating in groups, both online and offline
  • Coffees, lunches, brunches and drinks
  • Being stunningly generous and building meaningful relationships
  • Calling everyone you’ve ever known and begging for help (aka, “inviting partnership”)

When you are looking to go from zero to real, unless you are either willing to risk an extremely low-probability viral moonshot or take a longer, slower path to growth, you cannot just put videos, podcasts, editorial and images out there, hope someone will discover them, follow them back to you, fall in love and pay you money.

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Yes, those things have power. Create them. Use them as levers to move people. But don’t rely exclusively on them. And don’t hide behind them because you are afraid of the more deeply felt pain of a failed hustle. Understand that, with rare exception, these elements are players in a longer, more nuanced content game, not an instant path to attention, income and impact.

When you are in launch mode, content does not let you off the hustle hook.

Both matter, and both operate most effectively over different time horizons. Hustle is your now game. Content is your medium to long game, with the occasional now-game hit.

Are there outliers? Yes. Of course.

Might you be one? Sure.

And we all love to point to the successes of those outliers in defense of our desire to hide behind the page or the screen or the mic in a protected room. To lean solely on the desire to create assets that go into the world and do the work, rather than getting off our behinds to do the same in real life.

If taking a content-driven moonshot were the only approach to launching a business or brand or practice, I’d say “have at it.” But, it’s not.

I’m often asked to advise authors, consultants, private practice pros and other wisdom-workers on how to launch a book, a practice, a company, product or brand. They all want to go big, fast. But, I’m not all that interested in conversations about how to invest a lot of time and money into a .0001% chance to explode virally, when a much higher probability path to success exists, even if that path requires you to do things that force you to drop the delusion, leave the cave and get past the fear of the hustle.

As an introverted, sensitive maker, I don’t like that any more than you. Doesn’t change the reality on the ground.

“Content is a complement to hustle, not a replacement for it.”

My friend, Lewis Howes, is a great example of this. When he launched his book, The School of Greatness, he’d already spent years building an audience around content in the form of a popular podcast. But the book was a new product, a new venture. He knew he wanted to hit The New York Times bestseller list and that was measured in sales over a one-week window.

So, he didn’t just rely on content. He hustled like I’ve never seen anyone hustle before. He got on planes, trains and automobiles, traveled to where people were, pitched himself all over the place, made deals, trades, spoke, consulted, pushed hard in mainstream media, created publicity opportunities, and more.

We’re seeing this same thing in real time with another legendary content-creator, Gary Vaynerchuk a/k/a the King of Hustle. Rising to digital fame as the host of Wine Library TV a few years back, he built a mega-keynoting business, launched a few giant-selling books (with a new one just coming out now), then leveraged his notoriety to co-found a digital media agency, Vayner Media, along with his brother A.J.

He now produces a live-streaming video show, a regular advice series, and has built a sizable audience, along with a podcast. Thing is, he and his team didn’t build Vayner Media, a world-class speaking career, and launch mega-books by creating content and waiting for clients to arrive. As is Gary’s mantra, he worked fiercely. He hustled maniacally.

Even fellow introvert and Quiet author, Susan Cain, stepped into hustle mode to make the leap from aspiring author to international circuit speaker, bestseller and then founder of an enterprise-level consulting firm around the unique needs and capabilities of introverts in business, and education, and life. Yes, she wrote a tremendous book that gave voice to millions. And she hired a crew to create a website, and populate it with editorial content, and now a podcast.

But, she traveled almost non-stop for the better part of two years, speaking at large organizations, and events, and building relationships that could eventually turn into allies, evangelists, introductions, and clients, both before and after the book, and brand hit. And, she built a team to continue on the seeds she planted with her own fierce blend of content and hustle.

#HustleMatters.

This brings up an interesting question. Actually, two.

What if you’re an introvert, and being “out there” empties you out?

Do you still have to do it?

Short answer…”yes, but.” You can do it in a way that honors your own engagement style. Build opportunities to step fiercely out, then as fiercely back in and create deliberate windows and activities that refuel your tank. One approach that works well for this introvert is to step out into the container of a smaller, safer group (my team) who I then empower to step into the bigger world in an expanded and partially delegated “hustle ripple.”

Also, it’s important to know that your definition of hustle is not the same as anyone else’s. What is sustainable for one person, might destroy another. So, be sure to do it in a way that moves the needle, but also allows you to be okay, physically, emotionally, spiritually and energetically. Keep it aligned with what matters most to you.

That brings us to the second question…

What if you just don’t care about speed?

If you have your needs covered, if you have alternative sources of business and revenue that will allow you the gift of breathing room for a longer, slower launch and build, you may be able to rely on really well-crafted content to play a much bigger role in not just your positioning, but your audience building and lead-generation.

If you have the runway for a slow-build, hustle becomes less of an issue.

But, if you have limited financial or temporal space to play with, if you need to make things happen quickly, if you have bills to pay, expectations or commitments to meet, with very rare exception, content alone is not enough.

And, if you’re looking toward content as a way to not just grow, but also hide, it’s a safe bet that’ll eventually catch up to you. So, you might as well explore how to peacefully navigate the hustle now, when the stakes are lower and room to breath more available.

Think of it this way…

Content + hustle are the flour and yeast in your launch bread.

Together, they rise. Divided, they fall.

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Here is Why It’s Never Too Late for You to Achieve Something Worthwhile

Have you ever asked yourself if it’s too late to achieve something worthwhile in life. These two most upvoted responses by Marcus and Jim respectively on Quora will help you if you still have doubts about what you can do at any stage of your career.

1. Marcus Geduld, Shakespearean director, computer programmer, teacher, writer, likes dinosaurs.

Too late for what?

If you slept through your 26th birthday, it’s too late for you to experience that. It’s too late for you to watch “LOST” in its premiere broadcast. (Though, honestly, you didn’t miss much.) It’s too late for you to fight in the Vietnam War.

It’s too late for you to go through puberty or attend nursery school. It’s too late for you to learn a second language as proficiently as a native speaker*. It’s probably too late for you to be breastfed.

It’s not too late for you to fall in love.

It’s not too late for you to have kids.

It’s not too late for you to embark on an exciting career or series of careers.

It’s not too late for you to read the complete works of Shakespeare; learn how to program computers; learn to dance; travel around the world; go to therapy; become an accomplished cook; sky dive; develop an appreciation for jazz; write a novel; get an advanced degree; save for your old age; read “In Search of Lost Time”; become a Christian, then an atheist, then a Scientologist; break a few bones; learn how to fix a toilet; develop a six-pack …

Honestly, I’m 47, and I’ll say this to you, whippersnapper: you’re a fucking kid, so get over yourself. I’m a fucking kid, too. I’m almost twice your age, and I’m just getting started! My dad is in his 80s, and he wrote two books last year.

You don’t get to use age as an excuse. Get off your ass!

Also, learn about what economists call “sunk costs.” If I give someone $100 on Monday, and he spends $50 on candy, he’ll probably regret that purchase on Tuesday. In a way, he’ll still think of himself as a guy with $100—half of which is wasted.

What he really is is a guy with $50, just as he would be if I’d handed him a fifty-dollar bill. A sunk cost from yesterday should not be part of today’s equation. What he should be thinking is this: “What should I do with my $50?”

What you are isn’t a person who has wasted 27 years. You are a person who has X number of years ahead of you. What are you going to do with them?

* What I’d intended as a throwaway comment, about the difficulty of second-language acquisition after childhood, has generated interest and disagreement. I will admit upfront I am not an expert on the matter, and was mostly informed by research I’d read about.

It claimed there’s a window of childhood, after which the brain stops being able to hear certain sounds—one’s not used by a child’s native language—which is why it’s so hard to learn to speak a second language without an accent.

Some people may master it, but not many. (How many people do you know, after 25, learned a foreign language and can speak it so well, natives have no idea they’re listening to a foreigner?) It’s also challenging to learn all the idiomatic expressions that native speakers have known since they were small children.

However, since having written this answer, I’ve learned that the Science behind this is very controversial. As I’m not an expert, let me refer you to the wikipedia article (and it’s linked resources).

“In second-language acquisition, the strongest evidence for the critical period hypothesis is in the study of accent, where most older learners do not reach a native-like level.

However, under certain conditions, native-like accent has been observed, suggesting that accent is affected by multiple factors, such as identity and motivation, rather than a critical period biological constraint (Moyer, 1999; Bongaerts et al., 1995; Young-Scholten, 2002).”

2. Jim Lawrenson, Still driving…

Unfortunately for ‘real’ people, the media is obsessed with the tiny minority who succeed early and display this very publicly.

This is then amplified by the high profile ‘subject’,  for PR purposes, to perpetuate their success.

Justin Bieber, Michael Jackson, Britney Spears, River Phoenix, Justin Timberlake, Bill Gates, Jimi Hendrix, Steve Jobs, James Dean, Richard Branson, Whitney Houston, One Direction, Amy Winehouse, Mark Zuckerburg. Need I go on.

Notice a trend in there somewhere?

You are probably being influenced, (like all of us), in how you assess your own progress, compared to these people. It can be a dangerous game to play.

It takes a tremendous amount of luck, as well as talent, to get into the right position at the right time. Not many people who make it will tell you that, often preferring to put it down to their hard work.

That is because they believe that this is the case, not because they are intentionally misleading you. I know that because, to an extent, I’ve done it.

You also may not have considered that even if you were on the list of young successes. It is very hard to follow that early success later in life. Your expectations of yourself are higher and based on that youthful virtual reality you experienced once, you can never improve on your past.

That can be a tough pill to swallow and despite all the money in the world, many struggle with that.

Look at any list of young successes from just 10 years ago and count the number who have disappeared, died or been in rehab. Lots.

Half the list of super successful people above are dead for a start off.

This is not an excuse for you to give up trying however. 

Try to think of life as a long road journey.

The journey can be as exciting or as boring as you choose to make it.

Wherever you are on the journey, there are new experiences, as long as you welcome them and seek them out. Some you can plan in advance.

Often, you need to get out of the car to experience them. Otherwise, you will see them flash past the window and feel like it is too late to stop.

  • Do something every day which contributes to your progress on the journey and always be learning and experiencing new things.
  • Don’t put off experiences which can be done today by getting out of the car, for a tomorrow which may never arrive.
  • Build a vision of where you want to get to in 1, 5 and 10 years and then think about the steps you need to complete in the next 30 days to move towards it, but don’t set deadlines that are too harsh. Do the first step on the list today.
  • Like any long journey, you will hit diversions, obstacles, traffic lights, speed bumps, closed roads and all manner of other problems. There will be crashes – you might be involved in them. Like any long road journey, if you want to get the destination enough, you won’t turn back, you will reroute. The car might break down or need repairing. Just accept it will happen now, and carry on.

Most importantly, don’t wait for all the traffic lights between your house and your destination, to turn green at the same time, before you set off.

They won’t!

Get in the car and start driving.

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