Don't look back
Getting to escape velocity with your marketing, messages and brand requires moving forward with the intensity of a marathon runner
The web makes it tempting to look back at the past. If you hope to be prolific as someone who spreads ideas, you must ignore this temptation. There’s so little to gain by doing this, and you do so at the ultimate opportunity cost: driving things forward and creating something new.
Malcolm Gladwell stated in a Q&A he hasn’t read any of his previous books since the time they were published. Instead he’s off writing new bestsellers, new articles and getting paid well into the 5 figures+ to be a speaker. He’s not looking back, instead he’s looking forward.
In Robert Greene’s book The 50th Law (and also in his previous books) he states the importance of maintaining a focus on the present/future versus dwelling on the past. He cites numerous examples of how obsessing over the past has been the downfall of many bright stars.
Mitch Joel concisely states the importance of fresh content (for both brands and individuals):
There is no way around it. One of the only ways to really get ahead in executing a compelling and engaging online social media program it to constantly and consistently produce fresh content.
You’ll never get into a groove to do this effectively if you’re looking back.
Seth Godin states the reason why social media is so difficult for most:
It’s a process, not an event.
Dating is a process. So is losing weight, being a public company and building a brand.
On the other hand, putting up a trade show booth is an event. So are going public and having surgery.
Events are easier to manage, pay for and get excited about. Processes build results for the long haul.
And for this process to work, it involves always looking forward and continuing the narrative, not backwards.
We’re archiving everything digitally, and so everything is easy to get at – including your own content archives. But if you seek to have influence, authority and trust you need to be actively creating and not stuck on what has already been done. This can be accomplished simply by not looking back. Creative moments are only fleeting if you dwell in the past – if you focus yourself in the present and foster an active mindset you’ll inspire many more.
Some ideas with this in mind…
Don’t overvalue each content asset you create
The content you create should be valuable, however there exists a danger in overvaluing it to the point you ruin proficiency. Take care to create great content but make no mistake: proficiency is a factor. Focus on production quickly even if there are mistakes. Embrace them, they’re not that big of a deal (only you think they are and will notice them, no one else even will). The web rewards speed and agility, and if you can live that philosophy you’ll position yourself ahead of most. In time it’s easier to improve upon quality if you’ve got the speed thing down, while it’s harder to move quicker if you don’t have a pace set. Slow processes aimed at quality are noble, but they aren’t rewarded in a digital society.
Try and ignore your own press
You can read what others say about you, that’s just fine – but don’t take it to heart. If you’ve got a strategy that’s working, who cares what others say? If it’s negative it’s only going to get you down. If it’s positive you’ll get lulled into a sense of complacency which will destroy a healthy desire to do better. Your press is important, but if you embrace a an ongoing narrative strategy so it’s no longer about that one piece of media you attain by begging or pitching. It’s about a constant stream of organic attention that will work for you and being part of the daily conversation. This evolves your public relations into something far more strategic and allows you the control of shaping how the world views you instead of vice versa.
Don’t read real-time in real-time
This is going to sound counter-intuitive since I’m talking about not looking back, and the real-time web content is at the bleeding edge. But if you have already found your formula there probably isn’t much value in getting information as-it-happens. While the real-time web is the topic du jour and conversations move in real time, trends don’t move in real-time. They take longer to permeate a population and take hold in business, society, culture, etc. The same ideas need to be repeated and lasting in order to replicate with enough weight to matter. Don’t mistake conversations for real trends.
Unless your strategy legitimately hooks into real-time, a reasonable time web works just fine for almost all creative and marketing applications. Flirting with content at the edge of real-time wastes as much time as looking back. To consider yourself a true strategist you should approach the firehose from a curation standpoint, carefully filtering and aggregating it to discover just the information necessary for you. Also, to clarify for the digital analysts reading this, there of course are uses for real-time analytics (which I’ve written a column on here sharing just a few).
Most businesses and people spend far too much time looking at what has already occurred than considering what’s next. I’m not advocating not learning from each situation and definitely not advocating you don’t look at analytics as regular part of your work and process. However you’ll learn even more if you consider your journey an iterative process rather than spending arduous hours breaking down everything from the past in excruciating details. Learn from your mistakes quickly, internalize lessons and then move on.