I’ve wanted to be an astronaut since I was a kid.
I’ve also wanted to be a journalist, art teacher, ballet dancer, performance poet, university lecturer, jewellery designer, ceramic artist, writer, florist and farmer.
I’ve made pots, necklaces, collages, paintings, clothing, homewares and illustrations. I’ve studied history of art, Marxism, fashion theory, English literature, economics and I really did like physics. I’ve written reviews, interviews, articles, adverts, video scripts, poems, short stories and social media captions.
I’ve put my sticky little fingers in a lot of pies, and I’ve enjoyed it.
So I know what it’s like to have lots of different creative interests. I know what it’s like to feel pulled hither and thither when it comes to what you really want to do.
How frustrating it can be, feeling like you’re a jack of all trades.
That you never seem to be able to focus on one damn thing.
And what’s it like to feel you never, really, get anything actually finished.
I know what it’s like to feel you have to ‘go niche’ with your life. You have to get specific. You have to choose. And you have to choose now.
There was a girl at my school who knew exactly what she wanted to be when she grew up. She wanted to be a dentist in the army. Weird? Maybe. But specific? Absolutely.
Most of us aren’t like that. Most of us sort of have a vague idea of the general area we’re interested in pursuing, but we spend our lives exploring what it really is we love.
On the one hand, this is fabulous: a life rich in variety and multi-faceted creativity! On the other hand: damn hard to make a living when you can’t decide what you want to dedicate your time and energy to.
Through my work with marketing agencies and developing brands for small businesses, I learn that it is better to be specific and specialist when it comes to earning money from what you do.
That’s because people want expertise. They want deep knowledge. And they want to know it will be exactly what they need – not near to it or in the ballpark but exactly what they are looking for.
That doesn’t mean you can’t have lots of interests. It doesn’t mean you can’t try different avenues or explore different ways of creating.
The important thing is that you understand how they all tie together, and you can express that to your audience. Because that is your area of expertise. That is your ‘niche’. That is your specific and specialist and unique offer to the world.
And, to be honest, this is the thing most people struggle with.
You’ll be able to list all your interests – but being able to explain how they all fit together? What that underlying ‘theme’ of your work is? What connects everything? Yeah, that’s pretty tough.
Once you have that underlying theme, that core ‘something’ which makes all of your interests make sense … it’s a lot easier to:
- Explain what you to do confidently, authentically and beautifully
- Attract other people to your work, whether they’re customers or a community
- Stop doing things that aren’t useful or serving you
Taking a business perspective, knowing that ‘something’ can also help you work out what I call the three Ps of activity.
If you’re a multi-interest business owner you might often feel like you have to tell people about everything you’re doing. But not every interest you have has to be shared with the world.
I like doing a lot of things which I never tell anyone about – they’re just for me! That’s a really good thing. We need privacy.
Knowing your ‘something’ means you can choose which interests you make public – the ones which are going to more effectively connect you with your community and customers.
You wouldn’t believe the amount of stuff we do that’s totally irrelevant and unhelpful to what we really love doing in our business. Things like using social media that isn’t where our community hangs out or spending work hours tinkering with things that do nothing for us.
(We should absolutely spend non-work hours tinkering, exploring and playing. I’m talking just in a business context here.)
If you know that ‘something’ behind all your interests, you can stop doing things which don’t count as productive activity – and start doing something else more beneficial instead.
It is very easy to create products and services in your business which do not sell. We’ve all experienced that. This is often because we’re not focused on what’s actually going to sell in our business – instead, we’re thinking about what we like buying. We make what we want to buy, rather than making what other people want to buy from us.
This is a little tricky to get your head round, but here’s my example.
I love buying unique, hand-crafted jewellery. So for a while a few years back, I started making that.
It did not sell. At all.
It didn’t sell because people didn’t want to buy that from me, because it wasn’t an expression of that ‘something’ underlying all my interests. They knew that, subconsciously.
What is an expression of that ‘something’ is my writing, my marketing skills, my role as a business mentor, my coaching techniques. That’s what people want to buy from me.
(I have no desire to buy that stuff from anyone else. Seriously. I want to buy spiritual guidance and martinis.)
When you know your ‘something’, you can more effectively create products and services which will actually sell because you’ll know what people want to buy from you.
Simon Sinek, a famous author and business expert, calls this ‘something’ a business’ ‘why’. He says all businesses know what they do, a few know how they do it, but very few know why they do it.
Understanding my ‘something’ – my why – fundamentally changed how I see my business and, more importantly, myself.
Because you and your business are intimately entwined. When you’re creative, what you do and you – your personality, soul, mind and heart – are very closely linked. Sometimes that’s terrifying. But a lot of the time it’s brilliant and enriching.
Discovering your ‘why’ can make a huge difference to how you perceive yourself, your work and your value in the world.
Instead of feeling like a jack of all trades, you’ll be a master … not of ‘one’, but of ‘why’. Your very own, special, wonderful why!
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