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Know The Signs For What Isn’t Working

If you deliver enough ideas that don’t work, it becomes a test bed for what can work in the future.

However, there are no rewards for creating work that doesn’t strike a chord with other people.

The longer you are at the wheel, you change as a person alongside the work you produce. However, it isn’t obvious when you are in the moment and you keep going. Sometimes the best thing you can do is to pause and not continue with blinkers on.

Let’s look at the warning signs for when you might need to pause, reassess, and what you can do to make the whole effort much stronger. 

Delivering work that doesn’t hit the mark is not a bad thing, it genuinely helps you practice and refine. It highlights that you’re not quite there and going back to the drawing board can be the best thing to do. It is wrong to think that just because someone launched or made something public that it is going to be a success. It might have come with a series of iterations.

What Hasn’t Worked

There has been a lot from You Are The Media over the years that hasn’t worked. Including…

YATM Network

In 2018, I wanted to create a network of podcasts, with other podcast creators, where a unified effort made it feel like everyone gave the nod to each other. It was a collective spirit to say, ‘I’m part of this group.’ It just failed to build momentum.

People walking out of events

During winter 2019, I delivered a series of events via another company, where people walked out. Read market with people. As I was delivering through another initiative, most people had no idea what You Are The Media was about.

Cancelling a launch in another city

We looked to launch in Bristol in 2019 and through lack of interest we had to cancel. Read this on how to get people to come to your event. People had no way to discover more about YATM, so we created the YATM website that sat independently from another business (we tried again in Feb 2020 and thankfully it worked).

Hybrid events

In 2021 and 2022 we created YATM Online Offline where people could come in person or attend online. Most people choose to attend online when the whole intention was to bring people together. By giving people choice, it resulted in the opposite of what I wanted people to do. Read it’s not always going to work as you want

If I can share with you some examples of initiatives I have invested time into, it can help to share some warning signs that blindly progressing, in the hope that things might change, may not be the best thing to do.

Warning Signs 

Here is what you need to look out for if what you are progressing needs to stop and to be adjusted.

Few people are buying in

We all want people to consider our work as of value to them, but sometimes it might be a case of looking at what the benefit is for others and why their commitment is going to help. It could be a messaging issue, it could be a lack of familiarity with what you do. People joining in with you is what can make or break your endeavours.

You’re not excited about it

If your enthusiasm and drive mean that the whole effort feels like work, then no one else is going to feed off your gusto. A few LinkedIn posts to promote a webinar, course or in-person event, aren’t going to light that spark in someone else’s head. If the enthusiasm wanes, then the first thing you need to do is stop. Investing time in something that doesn’t drive you can harm you.

It doesn’t link to your professional ambitions

The worse thing you can have is an expensive hobby. If you are progressing something that doesn’t allow people to make that connection to what you do, you take away the opportunity for people to know your expertise or how you can potentially help them. When you start to put distance between yourself and someone else, where they can’t make that connection to your commercial worth or knowledge, it gets murky.

It is difficult to understand

When it takes someone else time to think or just not sure why a commitment to your side is going to help them, then it’s probably more than one person. Whatever you deliver, someone else has to know what they will take from it. Whether it is being around like-minded people or a new approach they can apply their side, you have to make your work feel easy to get on board with.

You are doing too much

I hit a wall in 2018 (read my story of burnout), as well as organising the YATM conference, I had the weekly newsletter, podcast, client work and just being a dad with two young children (they were 5 and 3 at the time). At some point, something has to give. We’re not robots. What starts to happen is that this affects our work.

No places for people to find out more

Signposting people always helps. It could be a place to read your ideas or how it all connects. When you have the proof it can support a decision. You can’t just put up a message that says ‘sign up here’ people need to feel at ease, safe and that you come with a reputation or evidence.

What can you do about it? 

Here is what you can do before you roll your socks back up. The next push might not even be the final version of what you want (you might not even know what it will be), but a central role in shaping what you do.

A journey is continually changing, it is always good to have a place to come back to.

List the values you have

Acknowledge the principles you live by. Whatever you step forward with, even if you have to come back to the drawing board again, being clear on what you believe in becomes a compass. It’s how you transmit these values to others, so they can make that association and connection.

If there is no future benefit, it’s time to let go

Sometimes our ego is the thing that keeps us present and public. It can be difficult to stop something that you once believed in. If you take stock and look at the genuine benefits an initiative provides if there is not a lot you can see for the longer term, perhaps you might have changed over time, there is no harm in stopping or putting to the side, for now.

Encourage and listen to feedback

If there are people who have participated in previous efforts, their input can help shape. It is wrong to presume that you know best. This goes beyond a form for people to fill in, but spending time with others to get to know their thoughts and to let them know that they can help create something far more impactful than you originally thought.

Reshape in a way that feels simpler

Just because you think that something is worthwhile to progress, it doesn’t mean that someone else does. Take some time out and look at what you have delivered with a way to take out any complexity. How can it be easier to join in? How will people be clear on what they will take from it? Can the end result be clearer?

Broaden your metrics

If your only goal is conversion to paying customers, you’re only going to be disappointed. Content creation can be a slow-burn activity. Focus on other breakthroughs such as finding your voice, becoming confident in the creation process itself and finding consistency in your narrative. Trust can and will lead to commercial returns, but you have to earn it first.

Find a framework

When you repeat a winning formula, it becomes easier to test and experiment with other initiatives so it starts to find a new life. If you create on a whim, the chances are you’ll run out of steam. Commit to gathering inspiration, feedback and information continually.

Let’s Round-Up

In the words of Buckminster Fuller (thanks to Nick Whitnell) “There is no such thing as a failed experiment, only experiments with unexpected outcomes.” 

What might not be working now, shouldn’t quell your appetite for progression. Even your next incarnation might not work! However, what starts to happen is that elements come together for you to take from and reshape. It can provide clues and routes to follow. This means that what you produce in the future is considered, tested, relevant, and has a place for others. 

We all need time to pause and reflect. What might not be working now, can still matter to other people. It’s how we deliver strong work and always be miles ahead of those who haven’t even started.


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