Don’t Be “The Best” – Be “The Only”
Being seen as “the only” person in a particular field or sector is a great strategy for getting people to stay with you, whereas pursuing an approach where you want to be seen as “the best,” is more likely to result in disappointment.
Success isn’t just likes, acknowledgement, or recognition. Yet when you’re striving to be seen as the best you become a slave to getting attention. Real value lies elsewhere, in how well you hold your audience’s attention.
Producing work that helps you become “the only” in a particular space means trying new things and doing things others haven’t done whilst serving an audience that is aligned with you.
When you create for the right people, you’re far more likely to do well.
Where This Starts
What I want to share here is influenced by those who shun the ‘be the best’ mantra and look at the world slightly differently.
It was Kevin Kelly who said, ‘don’t be the best. Be the only.’
As Kevin and Jay say, being the best is overrated, it’s something countless others chase. You see it every day, in the form of posts from people who insist they know it all, documenting the peaks of achievement they’ve scaled. If your drive is to be the best, you’ll end up competing with everyone, something that’ll take up too much time and energy.
Continually trying to demonstrate perfection is an exhausting way to live.
So how can you create work that matters to the people you matter to, those who’ll show up and appreciate your work?
Aiming to be “the only” puts you in a different lane.
Sharing The Proof
I’m currently trying to live the ‘be the only’ approach and whilst it’s difficult, I’m already beginning to see some of the benefits. The YATM Online Offline events are my live experiment, showing people how you can bring people together digitally and in person, at the same time.
The focus is on creating a show (something that feels like a TV programme) where there’s a mix of learning, sharing and fun with a strong community feel to it.
I don’t want to be delivering business events where people show up, passively learn and leave. I want to create something where everyone has a role to play, even if that means singing at the end!
See what I mean…
I want to take what we learned from becoming digital-only in 2020 during the first lockdown (incidentally, I’d never even used Zoom prior to February 2020) and intertwine that with the buzz you get from in-person events.
Hands-up, it’s not perfect and I’ve been very open about that and how I’m learning as I go, in plain sight of everyone. I do however, want to be the only person who can deliver in-person and offline events, before others catch up!
Delivering YATM Online Offline is my way of not wanting to be the best but the only person. It makes it slightly easier to embrace when:
📈 You don’t feel the pressure to get it right first time (being the best) – and you’re able to take a gradual approach to improving
📈 You don’t need to evidence huge progress immediately (being the best) – small refinements go towards making it better in the long term
📈 You don’t hanker after the euphoria of nailing it (being the best) – just the act of delivering something workable can make you feel happy (albeit I need to figure out how to not be so exhausted the following day!).
What It Looks Like In Action
Here are some actions that can help with accepting that rather than being the best, you want to be creating something that matters to the right people.
Your work should not be centred around wanting to be popular because, as Jay Acunzo says, “What if we all stopped focusing on being visible and learned how to be memorable?”
Look around for ideas.
Inspiration comes in many guises – when an idea strikes, write it down and then, make sure you try it out. Ideas without action don’t get you to where you want to be and I find that the ideas I have also come from the experimenting itself and the feedback I get from that.
Be ok with your own doubt.
Starting without a roadmap or someone whose path you’re following can make you doubt yourself. Who knows if what you’re trying is going to work? Perhaps this comes down to confidence, but you have to learn to accept your own moments of hesitation.
Deliver in public.
There is nothing worse than leaving work in draft folders, you have to put it out there and share it. Even better if you’re working to a schedule and have to deliver on a particular day because then you can’t shy away from it. The more you deliver, the easier it becomes to explore further new ideas.
Be ‘all in’ with your topic.
The love and interest you have in what you do will mean you return to it, no matter how many times you’re “shot down” (this could be by someone criticising you or when you lose email subscribers).
Find relatable themes.
Finding commonality with your audience creates shared values. This stable foundation helps when you’re introducing new ideas that people are not familiar with.
Roll with the inevitable difficulties and hard times.
When you’re creating and building your audience, things won’t always go to plan. In the past, I’ve deleted the entire YATM email list and I’ve had to cancel events, but what these hard times also became was opportunities. Your difficulties can become a way of demonstrating you’re relatable and approachable. People who want to be seen as the best are not the people who would tell people they wiped a list. Those who want to be “the only”, do (here is how I deleted my email database).
There’s a saying that “the best is the enemy of the good.” Taking its lead from that and starting to think about where you can be “the only”, becomes a game changer.
How well you do will of course come down to how much the quality of what you’re producing improves, but one of the best things about “the only” approach is that there’s no limit to what you can achieve. You won’t be tied to what others are doing, but looking to find your own space to deliver from and find the right people, “your people”, to join you.