What’s That One Thing That You’re Great At? Because You Need To Know.

Earlier this week Seth Godin wrote an article about knowing the one main thing that you’re about. What do you actually do? Which talent do you have that you would ramble on about if someone asked you? What value does your work actually offer? What’s the most astonishing and important feature?

Here’s a simple diagram that Godin shared. Pick one. Your work can’t be everything.

Know what it is and work on it a lot harder than you do on the other things.

Our natural temptation would be to want to be great at everything.

My teacher used to tell me, your life needs a proper weightage. You can’t go around placing everything on the same hierarchy. Your daily salaat has different rakaats, so does your life.

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Godin said,

Consider some classic, bestselling novels or memoirs. Snow Crash matters because of the ideas within. Harry Potter worked because the plot kept kids riveted. The language in Patti Smith’s Just Kids is perfect, and the characters in To Kill a Mockingbird are unforgettable. Of course, each book has the other elements in some measure, but it’s the one thing that sticks with us.

Zappos might have good prices, but it’s the service we talk about. Tom’s might have fashionable shoes, but it’s the pay it forward that resonates. And your iPhone might have good download speed, but it’s the design and fashion that we pay for.

Pick one to exceed expectations in, while making sure everything else is good enough.

It’s the power of undivided, concentrated action and attention — Exerting a high-pressure force on the same spot.

The people who are a lot more successful than you are aren’t God’s favorites. They’re just like you. Everybody fails at something. But they’re smart because they maximize on their strengths and do less of the things that they suck at or hate.

Maybe Chemistry’s not your thing. But there must be at least one other subject that you’ve never slept through — That you loved to study even if there weren’t any exams.

The important thing is that you know what you’re good at, what you really love.

My Dad once dabbled in a relative’s restaurant business. Growth was pretty darn slow. He would tell me plenty of times that they needed to find the restaurant’s “crowd-puller” — Their main dish that customers keep coming back for. Because there wasn’t any.

I wouldn’t usually say anything when he talked about those things.

But in my head I thought — In the first place, his relative who is running the restaurant doesn’t even love food. She doesn’t even cook at home. All the cooking at home (and at the restaurant!) is done by her maid. She doesn’t actually care or know much about making food. The buck is passed to her maid to worry about that. She only works on the business side of things.

She reminds me of how crucial it is to have a very intimate relationship with what you’re making.

When my Dad first told me that she was starting this restaurant, I was surprised to my gut. That thought had never escalated in my mind at all.

Look at Apple for example. After Steve Jobs was ousted the company went terribly downhill. They stopped caring about making great products. They ignored the design aspects and a lot of other things that a craftsman would scrutinize about. Their only concern was about making a lot of profit.

Secondly, it’s not about waiting to find what the customers love most. It’s about creating that crowd-puller. It’s about knowing and crafting it until it’s as perfect as it can possibly be. And then you market it as your main dish.

Don’t wait for other people to tell you what’s special about your work. Because they don’t know. You have to tell them what’s special. You have to tell them why it’s different. You have to tell them why they should buy it, because you believe with every fiber of your being in what you’re making. 

The first person to love your work isn’t another person. It’s you.

If you don’t love and believe in what you’re making, don’t expect other people to do so.

Audiences are hard to fool. They can feel it all in your work.

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