Start with clarity

With any goal you pursue, it is necessary that you establish clarity of that goal.

By “clarity”, I referring to your Why.

Why do you want to achieve goal X? 

You have to dig deep to understand your true motives and how goal X links up to your ultimate goal and the life style you want to achieve. Analyze your current habits and actions and how they compare to the habits and actions needed to reach your goal.

The deeper you think, the more crystalized your thoughts become, and the more clarity you have in reaching your goals.

Dr. Viktor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor, psychologist, and author of the world-renowned book Man’s Search for Meaning says,

Those who have a Why to live for can bear almost any How.

Your Why is your true North. It is what will guide you in how you prioritize, make decisions, and execute. When overwhelmed with information, refer back to your Why, determine which initiatives align with it, and eliminate what is irrelevant and unnecessary.

Establishing clarity in my career path has helped me create results in my job search. For months, I applied to any job that sounded suitable to my job criteria. These jobs ranged from sales to human resources to marketing. When I realized this strategy was futile, I stepped back to recalibrate. I took a honest look at my core skills and thought deeply of fields I was genuinely curious about but also matched my past experiences.

I chose marketing and shifted my efforts accordingly. In a matter of two days, I revamped my resume, LinkedIn, and the story that I was telling recruiters. After sharing this new vision with friends and sending out a few applications, I am now in the third round of a marketing role that deeply interests me. Despite my lack of expertise in the field, I was able to convince the recruiter of my story and clearly express how my past work relates to my future in marketing.

If you are not clear about your goals, how is anyone supposed to help you achieve those goals?

Clarity gives you the lens you need to filter out the noise and focus on what matters most.

 

Success without challenge is mediocrity

If you know me, you know I love food. I love watching food. I even wrote an ode to chefs.

When I tell people I spend my free time watching food documentaries, they next ask me, “Do you cook?” I answer, “Yeah, I’m getting into it. It’s a work in progress.” Then they ask, “Oh, what do you cook?” This is when I get sheepish. I scan my mind for the most complicated dish I made in the past few weeks and say, “Oatmeal and fish.” (This raises questions because it’s so peculiar. It’s actually extremely delicious when I add all my fixings.) In actuality, my go-to meal is the classic sunny-side up egg and bread. However, since it isn’t complex, I find myself feeling too ashamed to even mention it.

Sunny-side up eggs and bread is the breakfast of my childhood. I dress my eggs with different ingredients depending on my mood for the day: soy sauce, pate, pepper, red chili flakes, harissa, chives, spinach, etc. I also experiment with different types of bread: Vietnamese baguette, french baguette, wheat, rye, etc. It is extremely delicious, equally satisfying, and ultimately, very simple.

Today, I realized, there is nothing shameful about having eggs and bread as your favorite dish. Moreover, there is nothing shameful about saying that you are a beginner. That you are just starting off. That you are not entirely knowledgeable (yet). Or even that you are a highly skilled cook yet your favorite meal is the most elementary food.

There is a vengeance to obtain from knowing you are mediocre at something, great excitement in knowing that you have nothing to lose and everything to gain, and undeniable humility is admitting you love the simplest things. 

After all, great cooking begins with the egg.

Similarly, being in a state of uncertainty is not shameful. Whether you are unemployed, recovering from an addiction, going through a divorce, or “failing at life” (for the record, if you are trying, you are not failing), own it. There are crest and troughs. There are mountain and valleys. There are great moments and terrible moments.

You are human. It is normal.

What you make of the troughs is, however, should not be taken with mercy. These challenges are tests of your mental toughness. Push. Act. Rise. Be the contender and tap into your inner strength.

Success without challenge is mediocrity.

Authenticity goes far

Why sell a fake version of yourself? Yes, we must impress people to get what we want, however we should showcase skills that are authentic to who we are.

I reached out to a seasoned marketing professional for advice earlier last week. This part of her response surprised me:

At the end of the day, people don’t buy your product, they buy YOU. The more authentic and vulnerable you are willing to show up in the world, the more people want to listen to what you have to offer. I have found that to be true through and through.

Think of all the ways we market ourselves: job searching, branding, sharing our stories. We try to show people ourselves, however often times, there is a plateau. We don’t get the response we want, or the validation we believe we deserve, so we give up. We sacrifice our authenticity and sell a different story. Possibly a story that is fake.

A great example is when people catfish when looking for dates. How would you feel if you were going into a date expecting one person when another person shows up? I would be extremely annoyed. I assume people we are marketing to feel the same way when we act out of character.

If we hit a plateau, let’s simply change our strategy. Gather data. Theorize. Test. And try again. Don’t give up. But keep testing. Find a better way to tell your story.

The market, at least the market you’re looking to serve, wants someone who they can trust. How can you build that trust? Show them you, the best parts of you, and actively work to strengthen the rest.

Forget the mass, impact the special few

There is great satisfaction in impacting others, even if it is one person.

As I am in the midst of building my marketing knowledge, I am learning that it is important to focus on the smallest viable market: the smallest group of people who you choose to serve. The idea is, if you obsessively try to understand and cater to these special few, they will voluntarily spread the word about your product or service as a result of the value they derive from you. This also allows marketers to create a stronger brand, community, and projects that they are proud of.

“The relentless pursuit of mass will make you boring, because mass means average, it means the center of the curve, it requires you to offend no one and satisfy everyone.” – Seth Godin, This is Marketing

I experienced this firsthand earlier today when I received my first blog comment from a stranger. I was surprised to see that he felt strongly enough about blog post, compelling him to leave a comment. This comment was not just any comment but one of great depth and vulnerability. The joy that I received from that one comment reminded me of why I write these blog posts.

By focusing on impacting a special few, you are able to provide value to those who want to hear what you have to say.

“We must begin with a worldview, and invite people who share that worldview to join us. ‘I made this’ is a very different statement than, ‘What do you want?'”

This points back to the old adage, “Quality over quantity.”

In a world that is convoluted by the “more”, focus on the “better”.

Focus on impacting the special few.