Success is More Than Skill
Skills < Relationships
Are you an artist? Maybe you’re a writer. Or maybe your art is writing code. You are good, maybe even exceptional at your craft. But does anyone notice? Do you have more than a handful of followers or believers? Why do you have trouble landing your next gig, while the next mediocre person has a queue of dozens? Is it because you are less skilled? No, probably not. You are probably better than most. You struggle to make your mark. Struggle to be seen. Not due to ability, but rather your lack of relationships.
I, like many of you reading this, have put hundreds of hours into a craft. Learning and refining, just to fall flat on my face. I used to doubt myself, thinking that my skill and ability was the reason. I felt like shit, thinking that all that work led to nothing. Like many artists before me, I was wrong. You can be the best writer or designer, but if you don’t have a following or a large group of friends that will shout your praises from the rooftops, you may never be seen.
What you know < Who you know
As much as we don’t like to admit it, what you know is often trumped by who you know.
I have the ability to become laser-focused on making or learning something. This can be a new project, new writing, or maybe just learning a new tool. I can put dozens of hours into it and create something amazing. But during all of that learning and making, I forgot to talk to anyone about it. I forgot to call and hang out with people. When I was done, there was no one waiting to see it, no one excited to share it.
The people that you see on social, that have thousands to hundreds of thousands of followers are generally not better at their craft than the next person, they are better at talking about it. They sell how good they are, they embody it. As a humble person that likes to prove myself, rather than talk about myself, I struggle with this.
There have been many writers or artists that have long passed before they were noticed. Their work inspired generations, made millions, and defined styles of art. We should be able to revel in the outcomes of our work. To feel like we made a change. In order to do that we need to curate relationships.
So, how can we make a shift? How can we make sure our work is seen? How can we make sure our work is sought out?
Get really good at your craft
Before we worry about who sees your work, we need to make sure it’s worthy of praise. Some may fake it until they make it, and while that is reasonable in some manner, you should get good enough first.
Connect with your audience
Find an online tribe. This can be on a social platform or a bespoke messaging channel. Regardless of where they are, be genuine. Don’t come at this with ulterior motives. Share work, yes, but mainly be there to contribute to the conversation. Don’t focus on marketing, focus on building deep relationships. Yes, you can build deep relationships on the internet.
It is still a tried and true way to build relationships. In-real-life might be hard for some though. You might be shy, live somewhere remote, or just be rusty due to the pandemic. Find ways to meet real-life people. Go to local meetups, maybe spun up from your digital relationships. Hang out with your friends or your partners’ friends. Flex your family in as needed. We might not like depending on our family all the time, but they might have a few key relationships that could benefit us.
Be the Penny
Yes, this is a Magician's reference. Act like the thing you are trying to be perceived as. If you are a filmmaker, writer, or musician – embody it all the time. Talk about the cinematography of a film. Critique the writing style of an author. Provide music recommendations. If you make your skills seen in practical settings, others will see them too.
Be your own cheerleader
Talk about your work you are proud of! We need to talk about and share our work with people. We all have friends that have a following or connections, but they never seem to share our stuff. Put it in their face! Show it to them over and over again. Show them why it’s great. Make them want to share it.
The above is just as much a plan for myself as for anyone in a similar situation.
We deserve for our work to be seen. We deserve to get paid for it. But we can’t get there if we are just focusing on the work. Success can be very personal. But we can agree that one cannot be successful without an audience. We need to step away from our computers, cameras, and easels and start building a tribe. So, when you are done with your next piece and publish it to the world, there will be a dozen or even a thousand people waiting to see it. And if you are as good as you hope, success will follow.