Saturday, August 21, 2010

Know more than 98% of the population?

I recently read an article that outlined tips for becoming successful, or more specifically for becoming famous.  Many were the run-of-the-mill things like "always be selling" or "concentrate all your efforts for 9-36 months and do NOT give up during the lulls."  Those are the kinds of tidbits you can find in almost any motivational article no matter what it is you are trying to accomplish (in this case, authoring and selling freelance articles while getting famous at it).


One piece of advice in the article (it's an email newsletter, actually) stated that one should "Know or learn more about the topic than 98% of the population."  Seriously?  How does one even gauge such a thing?  On top of that, I would venture that 98% of the population doesn't believe they know something (ANYTHING) more than 98% of the population.

Of course, "the population" is a loose enough term (as is "famous") that this bit of advice almost reads like a horoscope or fortune from a fortune cookie.  I am by no means "famous."  Or am I?  What is "fame" and what do I know that 98% of the people in my circle of "fame" don't?  This is where the words begin to play tricks on you.  In my mind, "famous" is Stephen King, George Lucas, Bill Gates, Vlad Mazek, Ben Henry, Ree Drummond and the likes.  Oh, I know you're thinking, "who are some of those people?"  And that is my point.  The first three are generally uber-famous in American culture.  The next ones are "famous" in certain circles.  Vlad is famous for his knowledge of the Microsoft partnership program and his various back office applications.  Ben is famous in card-collecting circles (namely baseball cards).  Ree is famous for being a city girl who married "the Marlboro Man (as she calls her husband)" and started writing about it.


So, do *they* know more about their respective topics than 98% of the population?  As a whole in the world at large? Maybe, maybe not.  But, what about among those that follow them?  Probably so. 

How does this translate to our everyday world?  First of all, I will be the first to tell anyone that I am a "jack-of-all-trades, master of none."  I know about 2% of any given topic, if that much.  I would guess that many of us feel that way about anything (or maybe everything) we know.  We are the 98% that others know more about a topic than we do.  In a given area.  So, the "trick" (as it were) is to figure out where those percentages are reversed and then figure out how to make the most of those areas.

Do I know more than 98% of the population about blogging? Heck no. Not even in my ever-growing circle of friends, family and acquaintances! Computers (troubleshooting and repair)? Nope.  In my circle, I am probably at the 50/50 mark.  Okay, how about self-publishing?  Maybe, but probably not 98%. Maybe 60-75% at most.  How about self-publishing with Lulu.com?  I'd say yes.  Now, do I know more than 98% of the people in the world about that? No way. One look around the forums on that site, and I quickly find myself in the 98% who ask the questions.  But, among my peers, friends and family?  I'd say 98% is a safe number.  Off the top of my head, I can think of fewer than a handful of folks that have used the service (I hope to convince people to change that though!).


Now, am I "famous" for it? Heck no.  Or at least I don't see myself that way.  The key, though, is to keep at it and to keep learning and sharing what I learn.  Same holds true for anyone in any field.  I think everyone knows something that 98% of the people they talk to, work with, or live with DON'T know, or know very little about.  So, we must find that thing (or those things) we know and then SHARE what we know.

How do we find that thing?  The easy way would be to stop and think about the thing(s) that people ask you about - teaching, gardening, computers, publishing, engines, baseball cards, grant writing, whatever.  Now, once you figure that out (a lot easier said than done for most of us, I think), the next step is to start writing about it.  And *that* is the scary part.  After all, what if another one of the 2% who knows something about your topic finds your posts and points out mistakes!? I have learned what to do when this happens:  Thank them and fix it.


Seriously. That's it. Figure out what you enjoy and what people generally come to you about advice.  Start a blog and begin writing about it.  When someone questions you on something you've written, get the facts and if you need to fix it, then thank the person for pointing it out and fix it.  You'll be amazed at how many people will still read along, and who appreciate your willingness to admit when things aren't right.  I run into that with my Indians baseball card posts all the time.  At first, I was embarrassed and nearly quit posting because I *know* I am not "the expert" about the topic. But, you know what? I am the "expert" of my own love for the team and of my own collection of cards.


What about my writing?  I am not a writing expert by any stretch. I am not a "lulu.com" expert.  I am an expert in my *own* journey as a writer and self-publisher and I can (and do) share that.  I am not an expert in all the technology-related things I know, but I am the expert in *my own* experience with those things.  If I can share my experiences and my insights with someone (anyone) that benefits, then I'm ecstatic.  Am I "famous" for the things I know and share?  I suppose in a way, I am among the folks I know.  And, once you start writing about what you know, you will be too.  Just remember: Fame is fleeting, Never let any kind of fame go to your head, and Fame does not necessarily equal monetary rewards.  Be okay with those, and you'll do fine.

And, if you do start working on building your fame (or just start writing about what you know regarding a particular topic), let me know. I'd like to come along for the ride.  After all, this blog started because I wanted a place to post my notes on the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and a list of commands for an old Commodore 64 program (Little Computer People). Who knows what'll come up if you start jotting down the things that pop into your own head!

*footnote:  "among the folks I know" is the key phrase.  True "fame" comes when people know who you are whether or not you know them by name.  In the respect of "true fame," I do not even pretend to be famous. INfamous, perhaps.

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