Be so good they can't ignore you.
And why the future is slow.
When iconic comedian Steve Martin was asked to give advice to aspiring comedians, he replied bluntly to be so good they can’t ignore you.
One of my favorite writers extended this idea into a book of the same name, and it’s been one of the books I’ve gifted most since it was published in 2012. The book, in essence, is about playing the long game. If we broke it down into bite-sized advice it’d be:
Focus on developing rare and valuable skills over a long arc of time.
Embrace the craftsman mindset of continual improvement and mastery of your work.
Turn these rare and valuable skills into “career capital” which will give you more leverage over how you spend your time and energy later in your career.
But in a world that is moving faster every single day, with AI disrupting…*waves hands*…everything, is this way of thinking even still relevant? How do we develop rare and valuable skills when everything is moving so fast?
I think the answer is counter-intuitive.
While the rest of the world moves faster, our task is to go slower.
Deeper into our zone of genius.
To understand the problems we’re trying to solve more intimately.
Shiny objects are everywhere right now, and they pose the risk of endless shallow work at the expense of the deep work that moves the needle.
In tech, it’s common for the founders of a company to be the ones also selling the product for the first several years of the business. They get the company to 5 or 10 million of annual revenue before bringing on a sales team and passing the torch.
But why is this?
Because they can’t afford to hire a sales org? Not likely. Capital has been given out like candy for a decade plus now.
Because they’re good at selling? Doubtful. Most founders don’t come from a sales background.
The real reason founders are the ones selling the product?
Because they understand the problems they’re solving better than anyone else.
The story is almost always the same.
Founder has a problem.
Founder is annoyed enough with the problem that they want to solve it.
Founder gets to know this problem deeper than 99% of people on the planet.
Founder creates a solution to solve it.
If you can understand problems intimately, selling isn’t about selling at all. It’s about helping someone solve these same problems because you understand and empathize with the situation so deeply.
What is rare and valuable today is the same thing that’s always been rare and valuable:
Thinking like a founder.
Being determined to know your industry, buyers, products, and problems better than the 99%.
Being…so good they can’t ignore you.