How to be in the top 10% of your industry
In a world where there are literally thousands, if not millions of people competing to do exactly what you want to do, how will you stand out? How will you ever get noticed?
You may assume there are too many obstacles to overcome or not enough opportunities out there. You might feel like you’re not connected enough, skilled enough, or have what it takes. You may even feel like you have done everything you can already but nothing seems to work. Whatever you’re thinking, you’re right.
“Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.” - Henry Ford
So why not think you can? Why not you? Why not now?
The world has a way of rewarding those who decide what they want and work to go get it.
“Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson
Step one: start
Begin where you are with what you have. Start down the wrong path if you have to. Explore even your bad ideas. Be okay with failing and start creating. At this point, don’t let creating something perfect get in the way of creating something, period. Do this and you have already beat out 80% of the competition. Most people fail before they even begin. They get a bad case of paralysis by analysis and never begin working to make their dreams a reality. You too may have been stuck in this trap before. But not anymore.
Step two: keep going
The next 5% of your competition will burn out after a while and quite. By being consistent with your craft, you have already placed yourself in the top 15% of the world! Keep patiently and diligently working. One day, your chance will come. One day, you will be heard.
That’s the amazing truth behind consistency. There is a certain compound effect taking place. When you improve even less than 1% every day, before you know it, you’re where you want to be. Invest a little now, then watch your investment grow. Exponential growth only comes with time and commitment. This type of commitment isn’t easy. If it were, there would be more people doing it. That’s why by simply following step one and step two, you will already be in the top percentile of your industry.
Start. Keep going. If you want something bad enough. You will make it happen. There will be sacrifices, but when you love what you do they won't seem like sacrifices anymore. You'll sleep less, watch less tv, spend less time with friends and do hobbies. You’ll replace some of those things with getting educated, connecting with like-minded people, testing your ideas, failing a lot and learning a lot. But that’s what you signed up for, isn’t it?
Step three: breaking into the top 10%
After showing your craft the level of commitment it requires, you can now take your performance to the next level. Here’s how:
1. Find a mentor or hire a coach.
As the proverb says: “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” You will not get to where you want to go without the proper training. People who have been there before or are doing what you want to do can help you avoid certain roadblocks saving you both time and money. The right mentor will help you gain clarity on your unique message. They will help you connect with the right people to help spread your ideas. The wrong mentor or coach can have the opposite effect, so be sure never to take advice from someone you wouldn’t want to switch places with.
2. Create something remarkable.
Easier said than done. That is why testing and failing and learning about your target audience are so vital to your success. Your purpose is to gain trust and earn attention. The only way you can do that is to write something people will want to read, sell something people will want to buy, and serve people how they would like to be served.
3. Be a marketer.
You are a marketer now. It doesn’t matter what your skills are or what you think your role is, if you are serious about being in the top 10% of your industry, you will need to learn marketing. Pay attention to how people respond to what you do and say. Observe what favors people are asking you to do for them. Ask more questions. Listen. Learn how to best fulfill the needs of your market. You have more to offer than you think. It’s time for your market to understand that.
4. Think like a designer.
Designers are taught to pay close attention to the details. Because details matter. Everything designers do, from eating to grocery shopping to driving down the street, influence their work. In order to make the most out of what you do, your work will always need to be top-of-mind. A commitment to your work requires a commitment to solve the interesting problems that come your way. They will demand your attention because you have promised your attention. So when inspiration comes your way, go to work. Organizing your thoughts for a later time is good, working on your craft as soon as inspiration comes to you is better.
5. Do it because you love it.
If you love what you do, stick with it. It's a marathon - almost everything meaningful you will do in life is. It's supposed to be hard. Would you do it even if you wouldn't get paid to? If the answer is yes, then keep going. Think of the many people you can and will touch by creating meaningful work. Think about what might happen if you don’t. Do what you do because you love it. Love what you do because of who it helps.
You are either getting better or getting worse. There is no middle ground, no state of stagnation. What got you where you are today will not be enough to get you where you need to go. Remember, you aren’t doing the world any favors by thinking small. Play big. And then, don’t settle for being in the top 10% of your industry. Instead, ask: what can I do to to get to the top 1%?
Thanks for reading! This article was also posted on Thinking Through Our Fingers