Hits and garbage

How much should I write? If we’re writing beats, I don’t want to write lots that we then don’t use.

This was something a client said to me this week.

He’s on the Thought Partner package, where I work with him to develop and publish his deep insight.

He does the writing, I ask the questions that pull the interesting, contrarian observations out of his head.

So, when he expresses this concern about wasted time and effort on discarded writing, I share this quote from Dan Reynolds, the singer-songwriter of Imagine Dragons.

“The majority of songs I write… are never heard. I write over a hundred songs a year. I release twenty songs every three years. Twenty out of three hundred.”

These aren’t just lyrics he’s writing. They’re songs with rhythm, melody, and multiple instruments.

Hundreds are discarded, all sitting on his MacBook.

That’s because the creative act is a wasteful, inefficient one.

Most of it is junk

Reynolds then goes on to say:

“I certainly don’t know the answers to what songs are beloved or good to the masses…I try genuinely to release the songs that move me the most… that’s my only gauge. It’s so subjective of what is good. Nobody knows the song the masses are gonna like. Nobody knows that formula…”

He’s written or co-written, by my count, eight songs that have more than a billion listens each on Spotify.

But even he, with all that experience and success, has to create hundreds of songs to find the good ones.

Cream may rise to the top, but diamonds are mined

Without the waste, rubble, rock, and dirt, there is no diamond, or at least you won’t find it until you start digging.

And regards a consultant’s content, one thing I notice is that the diamond is all that matters.

It's not a regular stream of good content.

Not ‘top of mind’ posts on LinkedIn.

It’s hits

Annie Duke had Thinking in Bets, and again, some great podcast appearances.

Brené Brown had a couple of stunning TED talks and Daring Greatly.

Harry Dry had the Landing Page Guide.

We're seeing this all play out live with Matt Lerner. He just released a hugely popular book, Growth Levers, and as a result, he's getting invited to some of the biggest podcasts on the planet.

That’s not to say they didn’t write anything else good

But it is to say that transformational success always comes on the back of one stellar piece of content.

I think about my own expensive buying decisions. Things like 1:1 coaching or $2,000+ training. I never made the decision based on months of reading someone’s content.

I made it on the back of discovering one piece of content that blew my mind.

I discover it, consume it, and then go through their entire back catalogue within 48 hours, at which point I'm ready to buy.

Two observations here:

  • One hit grabs my attention and draws me to want to read a creator's entire back catalogue.
  • The presence of a good (doesn't have to be great) back catalogue confirms my initial impression that this person is special and has something valuable to teach me.

At a micro level, this happened to me earlier this year as a seller.

I published one big piece of content that, in the following four months, directly generated $15,000 in revenue, plus another $24,000 I'm close to closing in the pipeline. That revenue is pure profit.

That’s not fixed, either. Those are ongoing engagements that could continue for years.

Those people were not email subscribers.

They didn’t know me before discovering that piece of content.

One of those clients recently told me: “I really admire your craft. When I read the piece, it jumped off the page. I was like, God bless, where is this guy? Unbelievable!

I’m not trying to humble brag here, I just want to show you that this is real.

The bands you love, the authors, the movie directors…

When you think about it, you love them because of a handful of hits. Yes, you like the back catalogue, but if you remove the hits:

A) You never would have discovered them

B) You wouldn’t feel quite the same way about them

The paradox of all this though…

Is that in order to extract those diamonds, you need to dig through dirt, and lots of it.

Which is what I told my client.

There's a lot of gold in your head, but there's even more junk, and we don't know which is which until we get it all on paper.

We’ll cut most of it, and a lot of the suff we publish won’t fly.

But maybe, just maybe, we’ll uncover a hit.

Want to become a thought leader?

Every 4 weeks, I publish deep dives into B2B thought leaders, breaking down the content strategy they used to go from unknown consultant to top tier personality.

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