That's right—follow-up Friday episodes are back!
I wanted to talk about something that crossed my mind after this week's conversation with Ali Abdaal. And this is a result of “competition.”
When you start to build a business and do competitive research, you come across people who are already doing amazing things in the space. You come across people who are amazing writers. You come across people who write just the most beautiful emails in the world. You come across people, like Ali, who have incredible storytelling capabilities and who have the ability to create very professional videos. And you always wonder to yourself, “Man, why can't I do it like them?”
And sometimes you'll try to do it like them—but that's almost never the right choice. You've got to check yourself before you wreck yourself, and that's what I want to talk about today.
- Why I got a little jealous of Ali's YouTube success (despite having my own popular channel)
- The author whose books I tried to mimic when I was writing Will It Fly?—and why that was a bad idea
- Why you need to figure out what makes you special, and then lean into it
- How to ask your audience for the input you need to tap into your superpowers
SPI 504: How I Forgot to Be Myself and The Power of Superpower
Welcome to the Smart Passive Income Podcast, where it's all about working hard now so you can sit back and reap the benefits later. And now, your host, the man with over 500 random facts shared on his podcast that are all actually true: Pat Flynn.
Hey, it's Pat. And I'm back on a Friday again. Yes, that's right, the follow-up Friday episodes are back. If you haven't heard of these “follow-up Fridays,” perhaps it's because we've been off for a little bit of time. I took the summer off. But these follow-up Fridays are special. They are just you and me. There's no guests here. But often, I talk about the topics that were discussed with our guest from our Wednesday publication.
And it's Friday now. We had just had a conversation with Ali Abdaal from YouTube and from the UK. And he's just a brilliant YouTuber, brilliant man, so smart. Talks about productivity. I highly recommend you check out his channel.
But I wanted to talk about a few things today, because this is on top of mind right now. And it may be on top of your mind as we head into the final quarter of the year. I hope it's been a strong year for you. It's been very encouraging to see things open back up. I know business has been sort of wonky. I see some people who have been riding the wave of people coming back into normalcy, especially in the travel industry. I've seen a lot of travel bloggers and travel firms, and things like that, just absolutely crush it.
And then there's other people who have been struggling. It's been a little bit weird for a lot of podcasters who have seen a lot of dips in numbers because people weren't commuting as much as they were before. But I expect those numbers to go back up. And different businesses have been still responding differently to different messaging post-COVID.
So, anyway, just want to wish you all the best as we move into this next era of the year and hopefully end the year with some really strong revenue. But also just really strong positivity and energy for you, your business, and of course your family, your health; all the things that you're involved with.
But I wanted to talk about something that came across my mind after this conversation with Ali. Again, make sure to follow him on YouTube. And this is a result of “competition.”
I remember when I first started business and I started doing research online ... as you should. I have a book called Will It Fly?. And when I talk about building your business and learning what's there so that you know how to stand out from the crowd, you need to know what's in the crowd in the first place. You build your market map so you understand what position to land in within that space.
Unfortunately, when you do this, you come across people who have been in the space already. You come across people who are amazing writers. You come across people who write just the most beautiful emails in the world. You come across people, like Ali, who have incredible storytelling capabilities and who have the ability to create very professional videos. And you always wonder to yourself, “Man, why can't I do it like them?”
And so after this conversation with Ali, I went onto YouTube and watched more of his videos. Because I love his videos. And although I enjoyed the videos and I think they're very entertaining and I learned a lot, I still, as a creator, myself, had those moments of, “Wow, he did that so well. Why can't I do things like that too? I need this piece of equipment in order to do this. I need to hire these people to do it. I need to be more like Ali, because he's got millions of followers and subscribers on YouTube. And I ...” this might sound kind of ... I'm complaining, even though I have hundreds of thousands of subscribers. There are people who are happy with thousands.
So I’m hearing myself talk about this now. And it sounds a little petty to get upset about having hundreds of thousands versus millions. But all this to say, that as you grow your business, you will still continue to feel this way unless you check yourself. You've got to check yourself before you wreck yourself.
So, anyway, let me go back to the early days, because I've always had these feelings. Especially at the start, you will see that it's very, very, very easy to just see what somebody else is doing and go, “Oh, I need to do mine like them.” And I remember when I first started my blog, I took a lot of inspiration from Darren Rowse from problogger.net. This was back when blogging was like the thing. Podcasting wasn't really around yet. YouTube had just kicked off, and it wasn't really a normal thing for a content creator to do YouTube; it was mostly the blogging thing.
And so when I created my blog I very much mimicked a lot of the same format, even the same coloring, as Darren Rowse. It was that way for a couple months until I finally found my own style and branding and voicing, and whatnot, that made me, me.
I remember, in 2014, I was starting to write Will It Fly?. And around the time I was reading a lot of Malcolm Gladwell books. Malcolm Gladwell: Blink, Outlier, David versus Goliath. A lot of amazing books from Malcolm Gladwell.
And the interesting thing about Malcolm Gladwell's books, and the reason why I love them so much, is because he goes into the science, he goes into studies. He is a professor of economics, I believe, at a university. Duke University, I think? I'm not quite sure. He does these studies and puts them into story and teaches us stuff based on data and analytic, and reveals these things about the world and who we are, and shows all this proof from these studies.
So I was like, “Wow. When I write Will It Fly?, I need to do the same thing. I see how he does it. He's successful. Therefore, I need to do it that way too." Looking back, I'm like, "Wow, Pat, that was not the right way to do it." But it's hard to know when you're in it, when you're in the thick of it, as the Backyardigans would say.
I had started to feel like I needed to create some experiments. I needed to go out into the field to collect data. I needed to read all these really dense studies in order for me to make my book great.
And I remember working with my book coach, Azul. You might have remembered that name from many times he's been on the podcast. And I talk about him quite a bit. He coached me through the hard process of writing that book. It was one of the toughest things I've ever had to endure.
He made me see that I was trying to be something and write like somebody who I was not. And Azul, you can find Azul at authorswholead.com. He and his partner, Steve, just do an amazing job of helping authors really tap into really why their books matter and how they integrate into the rest of the business and whatnot. Anyway, thank you, Azul. Thank you, Steve. I appreciate you.
He made me understand that I was trying to write like somebody else. He also made me understand that I did have my own unique ability and my unique ways of writing and my style. When he asked me questions, he never told me, "Hey, your writing is personal." He said, "Well, what do you feel your audience responds to with your writing?" He does exactly what a good coach does: asks the right questions.
And my answers were, "I feel like I can really build a relationship with my audience. I tell a lot of stories about myself and my family. The things that go well, the things that don't go well." You might remember the income reports that I had done every month for ten years. And those were being very open and transparent. That's what I said. I said, "Those are the things that make me, me." And he said, "Well, what's stopping you from putting those things in your book?" And I said, "Nothing." Well, not nothing. It was me wanting to be like Malcolm Gladwell.
And so the lesson here, at least in this first part of this audio file, is for you to remember that you are you. You are 100% original; nobody is like you. It's totally okay to get inspiration from others, but you need to know what makes you, you.
And there's a number of exercises that you can do to figure this out. Obviously, you could read comments on your YouTube channel or your podcast comments, or you can have conversations with people. And just kind of hear the chatter and how people respond on social media to the things that you produce. And pay attention closely to how they talk about the things that they like about you, or what they like about the work that you do.
If you have customers, if you have clients, if you have people who you consult or other companies, every once in a while, just maybe put your ear up a little bit more to the conversation to listen to, well, what about what you're doing makes them sit up on their chair? What about what you're doing makes them excited? Those are notes. Those are reminders for you to lean in to those things into the future. Not just with those same people, but with other people who come across your board in the future.
The other thing that you could do ... and this is what I recommend. There's actually an exercise in Will It Fly? ... is to actually literally go out and ask, more in a survey fashion. Now, I don't love surveys very much because a lot of surveys can be skewed. The results of a survey are very much dependent on the questions that you ask and how you ask them.
But if you wanted to go and ask your audience, be careful. You don't want to say, "Hey, which of these three reasons are the reason why you love me most?" That won't go over very well. And multiple choice never works best for really learning, deep down, why people are or do what they do.
You don't want to go to your audience and ask an open-ended question that is like, "Hey, tell me why, in your own words, you think I'm awesome?" Don't do that either. You don't want to do that.
What you want to do is say, “Hey,” ... and just be, again, very truthful and honest ... "Hey, I am looking for help because I need to hone in on what makes me, me. And sometimes, being me, it's hard to see from the outside. And I would love your perspective on what gravitates you toward my work and the things that I do. I'm going to take this information and be able to distill it into something that can then help others too. So, thank you so much."
Any time somebody has done this exercise, most of the time you're going to hear responses that are very surprising, very unusual, or just weren't even on the top of your mind. And that's really fun, because when you do that, you start to realize things that you couldn't see yourself. As I often say, "You can't read the label when you're inside the bottle."
And so know what makes you special, and then lean into that; put yourself into that. And lately, if you've noticed on YouTube, I've actually been leaning into a lot of what actually people love that I do on my YouTube channel. Not the Deep Pocket Monster YouTube channel ... I've got that nailed down in terms of the style and the voicing, and kind of knew the approach going in because I immersed myself in that space so, so much before even starting ... but on the Pat Flynn YouTube channel.
If you go to YouTube.com/patflynn, you'll see a lot of the videos recently are actually related to different tools that I use and systems that I have and things related to audience growth that make things easier and faster for me, things that help me save time as a content creator.
So, number one, go ahead and subscribe to the YouTube channel if you haven't already, YouTube.com/patflynn.
But number two, when I look back in the history of the ... gosh, I don't even know ... 700+ videos that are on my channel. Again, remember I started in 2009, so it's been a while. Haven't always been consistent. But some of the videos that are the most consistently high performing are the ones where I take something that's more complicated, I show a tool to help a person make their lives easier and save time.
And people in the comments sections really love the way that I do that. How I make things easier, how I edit the videos so that it just moves from one thing to the next and people can follow along. Oftentimes, I hear people say they pause the video while they are doing the thing that I'm teaching them. And not only does this help people who know about the brand and can find these tools out for the first time; a lot of people are finding me for the first time through the use of these tool demonstrations and tutorials that I'm doing.
The stories that I tell are a part of this as well. That's sort of like a different bucket that people have been responding to very well recently too. Just getting personal, no super fancy edits or anything like that, nothing dramatic; just telling a story. And that's been working really well too. But, again, when I go into the past, people are really enjoying how I did those things. And I'm leaning into those things even more instead of always trying to reinvent the wheel.
And so, as I go back into this tie-in with Ali and productivity ... it's kind of ironic because he talks about productivity and content creation as well ... I can see, from the outside, that he has really found his voice and he's leaning into those things, but also experimenting at the same time. I would say probably taking an 80/20% approach from things that he knows, things that he has formulas for that works very well.
If you follow other YouTubers, you'll see that they have formulas for videos that perform well. They just do more of them. The titles are very similar. The style of the video, the formatting, very, very similar. Mr. Beast, MKBHD, a lot of the top YouTubers have literally the same format.
If you followed Minecraft, you'll follow the Dream speedrunner videos. Same format. People love them. And the more you do the things that your audience has already said they love, the better you will do. I think, sometimes we entrepreneurs feel like we have to try everything under the sun.
And I would challenge you to consider, well, what are the things that are working for you right now? Maybe on a particular content platform, what are the most popular and highest-performing, or most-commented blog posts or podcast episodes or YouTube videos? Start there. Might that be a signal for you that YouTube is trying to tell you, or that a podcasting platform is trying to tell you? These are the things that your audience likes. So do more of that.
I just wanted to wrap this up by saying thank you to Ali for coming on and to helping me re-realize. Because, again, we go through these phases where you get excited and you remember these things and you remember your why and your full energy. And then all of a sudden, whether it's a break, or whether it's some life moment, or another person on the outside and some sort of external factor, it might stunt you a little bit. It might stunt your growth. It might stunt your energy.
And I think it's important to have these conversations with yourself every once in a while. And I'm glad, so glad to have had this conversation with you today here on our first follow-up Friday after summer 2021. I'm excited because we're going to continue these conversations throughout the rest of the year.
And again, I just want to say thank you so much for spending time with me. I know we don't often ... you and I, the listener, you and I ... we don’t often get a lot of alone time. You know, there used to be a lot more solo episodes. And we started to implement these Friday episodes so that we can just chat again, just you and me. And they're a little bit shorter. Fifteen minutes is the length of this episode is probably going to go. But it's fun, because we can have a chat. And then we'll go back to another interview this coming Wednesday.
So, if you haven't done so already, make sure you hit subscribe. Let me know how this episode hit you. Hit me up on @patflynn on Instagram or on Twitter. Same thing: @patflynn, Instagram, Twitter. And again, YouTube.com/patflynn, to go check me out on YouTube and see some of the fun stuff I'm doing there.
I had gone live for one year straight, and that was amazing. Big thank you to everybody who had been part of the Income Stream. But I'm going full force on these prerecorded videos now, leaning into what I know the audience likes, getting and reading signals from YouTube to grow that channel.
You know, what's really cool, is when you serve an audience in that way, your earnings become the byproduct. And I'm already seeing some incredible growth in the ad revenue space within that channel. And hopefully that'll also drip into a lot of what we have on SPI.
So, again, make sure to check out SmartPassiveIncome.com. We'll help you out as you are trying to grow your audience and monetize that in a genuine way. That's why we're here. Again, SmartPassiveIncome.com.
Thanks for listening to the show here. See you next week. Cheers, peace out, and as always, Team Flynn for the win.
Thanks for listening to the Smart Passive Income Podcast at SmartPassiveIncome.com. I'm your host, Pat Flynn. Our senior producer is Sara Jane Hess, our series producer is David Grabowski, and our executive producer is Matt Gartland. Sound editing by Duncan Brown. The Smart Passive Income Podcast is a production of SPI Media.
We'll catch you in the next session.