I’m writing this from the resort lobby after the CEX (Creator Economy Expo) event, and I wanted to share a few of the (many) big ideas that I’m coming away with.
The event had amazing energy and a terrific mix of people.
And everyone I talked with has a head full of bees, thinking about what they might want to start working on.
If you were at CEX (or you’ve attended an event or a course recently — in person or otherwise), grab your notes and create your own list!
#1: “It’s the Ecosystem” – Jeremiah Owyang (and a lot of other people)
“Ecosystem” and “community” are two of the buzzwords you hear most often around the “web 3.0” world.
Those clever ducks at CEX were smart enough to invite some of us (Pamela Slim and me, to name just two) who have been teaching the value of ecosystems for a looong time now. (In fact, finding and participating in your ecosystem is at the core of Pam’s new book, The Widest Net.)
One of the reasons I started the Creative Fierce site (as in, the one you’re reading right now) was to build a watering hole where amazing individual content creators could come together.
Most of us have heard the advice to niche down, and it’s smart. Whether you’re a monkey or an ant or a mango tree, there’s a limited set of things you do really well.
When people with different strengths and skills come together, we create an ecosystem that’s much stronger and more resilient than any of us can be alone.
#2: “Attention shouldn’t be easy” – Roberto Blake
Roberto Blake is a YouTuber who gave a great presentation on the strengths and smart practices for that platform.
After making a lot of useful points about the evergreen value of YouTube, and the importance of behaving in a way that protects your reputation, he wrapped up his talk with this statement:
“Attention shouldn’t be easy.”
Yes, it’s harder to create useful content than it is to create thin, generic content.
And yes, it’s harder to get attention for value than it is for being a jackass.
If we’re asking people for their time and attention for our in-depth content, we’d better make damned sure we’ve earned it.
#3: “Autonomy, Mastery, Purpose” – Daniel Pink
Brian Clark led an in-depth conversation with Dan Pink about Dan’s body of work, and he brought up something I’d forgotten.
In Dan’s book Drive, he identified the three key things that create intrinsic motivation (as opposed to external motivation, like needing a little stack of M&Ms to get your blog post written): Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose.
I’ve read most of Dan’s books, and I find the ideas tend to burrow so deeply into my head that they become part of my unconscious DNA.
So when I thought about what drives us in our Creative Fierce implementation community, I realized how close Dan’s three are to the core values of our group.
Autonomy is one of the stated values of my business and the community.
I believe the guru-follower relationship is inherently unhealthy.
Am I happy to answer (or ask) a question to help someone clarify their path? Yes.
But respect for individual autonomy is always at the core of our interactions.
My role is teacher, not cult leader.
Mastery has always been hugely important for content creators. And as more and more content gets published, actually being good matters more than ever.
The “creative” part of Creative Fierce is very much about pairing strong technique with deliberate practice.
I’ve written before about the reality for creative people:
It’s not really about putting in 10,000 hours, it’s about putting in the right kind of hours (and accompanying it with the right kind of rest).
Even dedicated writers can find it tricky to make the time for focused, deliberate practice. And in my opinion, that’s really where Creative Fierce excels.
Purpose: I can’t seem to help it: Everything I do ends up revolving around my values.
When I started out in marketing, especially in a corporate setting, my ideas got knocked (repeatedly) for being “naive.”
These days, it’s very mainstream to talk about purpose and values. Sure, with a lot of companies it’s mostly lip service, but at least it’s part of the conversation.
But I’m lucky enough to attract clients and customers who do have a genuine purpose that drives them. I’m very grateful that those are the kind of people who tend to feel most at home with my work.
#4: “Be an apple tree that only grows apples” – Mark Levy
I met Mark Levy at the first night’s reception. Mark is a differentiation expert — he helped Simon Sinek come up with the idea for “Start with Why.”
(Mark has five really good little pieces of advice on the home page of his website — well worth checking out.)
He also worked with Joel Hodgson, who was the creator of Mystery Science Theater 3000 — and is someone I happen to like a lot more than Simon Sinek.
Mark was talking about a project he’s doing with a current client, and he used the phrase “be an apple tree that only grows apples.”
As I understood Mark’s point, that means doing what you were “born to do.”
(I will say, in my experience, it takes most of us a long time to figure out what this might be.)
Mark contrasted this with what most companies and organizations feel like, which is “apple trees that grow breakfast burritos, or whatever else they think they might be able to sell.”
I think flexibility is important and smart. But I also believe it’s critical to find that essential “apple tree” in your background that stays rooted and true.
It’s deeper than staying true to yourself. It’s staying true to yourself from root to branch to fruit.
#5: “Implementation is the hard part” – everyone
At conferences, everyone wants to know “what you do” or “what you’re working on now.”
And when I told everyone, “I run an implementation community. Because implementation is the hard part,” I found a lot of heads nodding violently in agreement.
A good event sparks more ideas than you’ll ever be able to act on.
There are a ton of business tactics you could try. A ton of platforms you could start appearing on. A ton of potential partners and business allies.
There’s the book you want to write. And that other book you want to write.
And then the speaker says,
“Of course, you have to actually do the work.”
Like that’s simple.
“Just do it” is fine as an ad tagline, but fundamentally … it’s stupid advice.
Particularly if you’re learning something new or doing anything that stretches you beyond your comfort zone. There’s no “Just” about it.
If you’re naturally productive and focused like a Charlie Gilkey or a Pam Slim, I admire you! You should definitely keep doing what works for you.
But if you’re naturally … more like me, you might want to think about joining us inside Creative Fierce.
- We take advantage of the fact that it’s always easier to show up for someone else than it is to show up for ourselves.
- We harness gentle accountability (there is no ass-kicking or guilt-tripping in my group, and there never will be).
- We spend a few (like, 2) minutes on social time, and then we sink into our focus projects.
- We get together multiple times a week, about 50 weeks a year, so you always know when you’ll be able to get your big projects done.
- We offer sessions in two time zones (three if you happen to speak Norwegian).
I’ve seen a few other programs that offer digital coworking, but it’s typically anonymous and random. If that works for you, you should try that out.
But if you think you’ll give that up after about one time, you might be right.
We offer a reliable (but still flexible) structure to get your most important projects done, with friendly faces who come together needing the same focus you do.
If you’re looking for a regular structure for deep work, you might give us a try.
That’s it for this week! This has been an intense week for U.S. politics, and it probably won’t get easier any time soon. Take good care of yourself, protect your confidence, and stay fierce.