It ain't what you do

A post from the archive about learning to accept that others will do great things in your field, but you might get along just fine by being you.

If we respect the premise that some bands are better than others, why don’t we all listen to the best band? You can demonstrably tell that some musicians are better than others, but we make our choices not based on an innate sense of quality, but on feelings. We want music that we can identify with us, and that reflects us, or challenges us, or gives us a hug when we need it. We want to be impacted.

Sometimes, it’s not what you do that makes you interesting. If you’re looking for an audience in whatever it is you do, don’t fret that what you produce isn’t up to snuff, ‘cos chances are it is, but it hasn’t yet found its niche. That’s truly where the hard work begins, but don’t be downhearted when you’re staring at a flatlining analytics graph. What you do matters, but it’s you and your personality, and the way you present yourself that will dictate how people engage.

Take CodeKit for example. It’s a really useful, though not mature piece of software. It’s got the odd bug or inefficiency, but people really like it and broadly it works really well. One of the reasons I think its creator Bryan Jones will retain users is by entertaining them. When he releases updates to the software, he puts little messages in the release notes, so you get the usual litany of minor bug fixes, user improvements or major overhauls, peppered with quips and observations that don’t read like what a dork thinks is funny, but actually induce a smile.

This alone won’t make people use the software, but it might cause someone to tug another’s arm and say “hey, have you checked this out? It’s funny; the software’s really good too”, and there’s perhaps a part of the brain that chooses the likability of Bryan’s updates over the sterile notes that come with a similar app’s release. It’s the sizzle, not the sausage.

Find your sizzle; find that extra thing that only you can do, or that thing that you like about yourself and the way you present your work. If your current network doesn’t go for it in droves, that doesn’t necessarily have to extrapolate out to the wider world.

Be the you that you’d want to follow, but stick to your core and don’t feel like you have to change to meet an audience. Lots of people do the same thing as you, but it ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it, and that ‘s what gets results.

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