Yesterday, I asked a question that has been plaguing me for a bit.
Can you succeed by aiming for the middle?
And I got a lot of awesome responses.
Some of them:
- Yes, because there is room for those in the middle.
- Yes, as long as you enjoy the journey.
- It doesn’t matter as long as you’re focused on the journey.
And the list goes on.
But I’m going to give you my answer for me and this is something that some of you said for yourself as well.
And for me, the answer is no. You can’t succeed by aiming for the middle. Before I tell you why I think that is, it’s important to understand why we might think it’s okay to do so.
The middle is safe. What bad comes from being in the middle?
But when it comes to the top, I’m sure some of you can think about ALL of the bad things that will happen from being at the top.
- Everyone is looking at you.
- Everyone is questioning you.
- Everyone is arguing with you.
- Everyone is doubting that you deserve to be there.
Basically, the Top is TOO MUCH responsibility.
So why can’t I just be happy with the middle?
Because in the long run, the middle doesn’t work out. In the short term, I think the middle works just fine.
You can be mediocre and make some money, but in the long run, you always lose out. Why?
- The audience
- The competition
Let’s assume all things are equal with you and a competitor except for one. They are really good at what they do and you’re kind of good.
Who does the audience want to learn from (assuming they like you both equally)? Nobody happily wants to learn from the person in the middle.
This is why many people suggest you niche down.
Am I the best SEO person in the world? No. But I’m the best SEO person in the world for dentists in Montana!
And what about the competition? There are always new people coming into your niche. What are they going to try and do?
Climb to the top. So the only way to stay in the middle is by making sure that you’re better than half of them.
I don’t know how you do that. Be better than half of them but not as good as the other half above you.
The middle might feel like a place where you can remain still but you have to move to stay within it.
It’s like you’re standing in water that goes up to your waist. You tell yourself that you always want the water to be at your waist because that’s where you’re comfortable.
But the water starts to rise and the only way to keep it at your waist is by swimming (working).
You’re putting in almost the same amount of effort to maintain the water at a certain level as someone is swimming on top of it.
I think when we work on our own stuff, it’s very hard to visualize our audience also coming across other resources that will help them. So in our mind, we can say that we are doing well for ourselves.
Until one day, a new entrant arrives and blows everyone else out of the water. They’re able to do so because they said they want to be at the top and they figure out how to do it.
I used to run a web development + design school. I did it because (at the time) I was good at that stuff. I figured I was close to the top of the game for what I was doing and so it only made sense to teach it.
But there was a problem. In the development world, things change rapidly. Languages improve and tools get updates.
I didn’t like staying on top of those things and I figured I was okay as long as I was helping people learn how to build sites. But it got to the point where everyone else was staying on top of those things, releasing new updates to their content, while also helping people learn to build websites.
So why would anyone come to me?
I’m not sure there really was a niche that allowed me to say, “I’ll teach you how to build a website, but you’ll always be 8 months behind everyone else.”
I stopped because I couldn’t enjoy always trying to climb to the top.
And that’s what I want you to find. That thing you can do that you’ll always enjoy doing while climbing to the top.
Basically, can you be a craftsman that enjoys the process of honing their skills with whatever they want to help people with?
If you can’t, then in the long run, how do you succeed?
In 2018, I ranked #1 for the following terms::
- keto diet
- ketogenic diet
Those 3 keywords brought me over 3M pageviews a month. But something happened in July of 2018. Google changed their algorithm.
I won’t get into the details, but the gist of it was, they wanted you to be good at the health stuff that you teach. To them this meant having certified people write about certain health topics.
I wasn’t a nutritionist. I wasn’t a health expert. I was just some guy doing Keto and writing about it.
So I dropped in the rankings.
I also had another site that ranked well for Keto and here you can see when things started to unravel.
I was able to do this because I knew basic SEO. It’s not that I loved talking about these things.
I just wrote some basic blog posts, sprinkled some magic, and poof, I was raking in the money. But because I didn’t love SEO I never stayed on top of things which meant over time someone was going to overtake me. And because I wasn’t in love with talking Keto someone would’ve done better than me with that as well.
I did just enough to game myself to the top and it worked in the short term, but in the long term, it was a bust.
And that’s my point with all of this. I’m not sure there is a place where you get to settle for just enough to get what you want and keep it for the long run.
When I’m writing to you, I’m going under the assumption that you accept this as a truth, and because of that, then we can focus on every other strategy/tactic to use to ensure you do well with this approach.
If you’re playing the Infinite Game, this shouldn’t be a problem for you to accept. You might not EVER reach the top, but the fact that you’re continuously climbing for it always puts you near the top as people come and go.
I’m talking about this because looking back at my life, it’s nothing more than a series of me winning short-term games. But once they go beyond the short term I realize I no longer want to compete or someone else decides that for me.
So here I am finally at a place where I feel I can climb to the top in the long run. Where I can enjoy the journey of the climb which in turn will keep towards the top.
And so I want you to be mindful of what you’re currently doing now. If you’re trying to reach the top to stay there temporarily then at least acknowledge that. If I had the sense to do that then I would’ve sold my Keto site for 7 figures before everything changed.
But I continued to lie to myself and it died a pathetic death.
Let’s make sure that doesn’t happen to you.
Threads by Meta launched yesterday. If text-based social media is your thing I suggest you give it a shot but not because you can have first mover advantage or any of that stuff.
But because psychologically it’s a clean slate for everyone. For the next week (or more), you can use it as a testing ground for yourself with content. Post a lot of different things that you’ve been wanting to talk about but hesitate to do in other places because you feel things are set a certain way there.
Nobody there is going, “I expect this person to post this type of content” because everyone is new. Use that to your advantage and be selfish. Learn about yourself.
You can master the platform or algorithm later, but these kinds of opportunities don’t happen often.