🥩 Steak, Sizzle & Scraps: How to Fight Through Creative Gaps to Realize Rare Talent
'Rare' trumps 'flashy' in making a name for yourself as a creator.
Happy first year anniversary to this newsletter.
Today marks a 52-week publishing streak, and I’m damn proud. What started as a course assignment is now the drumbeat of my development as an entrepreneur. My newsletter has been both my weekly reflection prompt and a picture window to share my journey with you.
“We do not learn from experience… we learn from reflecting on experience.”—John Dewey
Today’s anniversary is extra special because the course where it started begins again tonight. 413 students are set to join the kickoff event from 41 countries.
Some will get up in the middle of the night just to feel the spark igniting our five-week writing sprint—much like runners huddled together at the start of a marathon. (On a side note, shoutout to my friend and fellow writer John Nicholas for crushing the Berlin Marathon last week. Legend.)
Steak Over Sizzle
Despite my solid publishing streak, most people would consider my newsletter a failure. Because I only have 268 subscribers.
I could’ve gotten discouraged about my slow growth and given up. But one of my key takeaways from working with startup coaches from 2020-2021, is good entrepreneurs distinguish ‘steak’ from ‘sizzle’.
Steak is substance. Sizzle creates a temporary illusion of substance.
There’s a lot of preaching on Twitter to “pour gasoline” on your writing. People tell you to make polarizing statements and “hook” people with outrageous claims about your achievements. I know they mean well—they’re trying to help you build a following fast. But I’ve seen friends run off the internet as though they’re being chased by a wildfire when swarms of people come at them for what they perceive as boasting ‘sizzle’ as ‘steak’.
My question to you is, how can you prioritize steak over sizzle to promote your work?
The Gap From Scraps to Steak
Here’s the challenge most creators face: it takes time to start producing steak. In the meantime, we mostly produce scraps people don’t find appetizing.
That lack of appetite from peers, friends—or hell, even family if you’re really unlucky—can suppress your appetite to produce. So people give up, and their dream of being a creator slips away like a balloon string escaping their hand as it floats out of reach.
But here’s the thing: you have to embrace the unavoidable gap from scraps to steak. Once you do that you’ll feel less self-conscious, less frustrated, and more committed to closing the gap.
Here’s some wisdom from writer David Perell to that end (as you read, think about gaps that may be holding you back):
We have two choices:
We can pursue our crafts knowing progress takes time and quit trying to add sizzle to scraps that don’t meet our taste; or
We can spare ourselves potential embarrassment by not producing scraps in the first place.
I chose option one in starting this newsletter. I’m taking it slow and steady. I know as I get better at writing and create my niche I’ll attract more people with merit. In the meantime, I’m enjoying the process of improving week by week.
In the same vein most people like their steak rare—I’m not one of them, scandalous, I know—it’s important to find out what others think is rare about you and your craft.
When a branding expert friend of mine asked me what differentiates me from my competition, all I could offer was:
Most people in the online course space are heavy in course marketing and weaker on the learning front; and
Most learning designers are academics who struggle to make instructional design approachable for creators and entrepreneurs.
My friend wanted something that packed a bigger punch so she told me to speak to my clients. “Why did they choose to work with you?”
Like a good soldier, I went ahead and asked a few people. Their feedback surprised me.
Client A said: “You have a rare combination of warmth and empathy with the discipline to get shit done. I need that mix.”
Client B said: “You’re great at creating autonomous workflows so I can do the bulk of the work on my own. That saves me a lot of time, money, and energy.”
Client C said: “Even though [a competitor] has more credibility, I picked you because I sense you care and are invested in co-creating my course with me.”
My branding friend lit up like a Christmas tree when I reported back to her.
Now I have more clarity on both my steak and what makes it rare—in a good way (not the way I recoil at having to eat rare steak).
My question to you is, what’s rare about your steak and are you promoting it?
My Upcoming Workshops
Big news: I’m launching a workshop series.
Beginning Monday, October 17, I’ll be hosting free weekly workshops on how to create engaging online workshops and courses. I’ll be using my 3D Framework: Design, Develop, Deliver to make the creation process simple and fluid for those new to this space—or anyone looking to up their game.
My mission is to make professional development more accessible. So my workshops will empower experts to scale their teaching from 1:1 to 1:many in an online format.
Thank You so Much
Thank you so much for being an early supporter of my writing and solopreneur ventures. I’m grateful to count you in my corner. Whether it’s reading or replying, commenting or sharing, your kindness and encouragement mean a lot to me.
Again, thank you so much. Here’s to 268 and beyond.
Have a wonder-full week,
P.S. I thought by now I’d look back on the first edition of this newsletter and cringe. But truth be told, it makes me smile. Sure, it’s a hack job compared to what I aim for these days but I’ll be saying the same about this edition a year from now.
After all, Ira Glass says it takes a couple of years to get good.
Cheers to being halfway there.