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3 Life Lessons You Can Learn from Being on TV

If you’re smart, you’ll learn something new from every job. And given that you’ll switch, not just jobs, but careers several times over your life, your unique advantage comes from the wisdom you pick up along the way.

If you worked in customer service, you’ll know how to handle clients when you go into business for yourself.

If you used to work as a reporter, you’ll have a nose for asking the right questions when you start law school.

And if you’ve ever douched your own nasal passages on national TV, you’ll know how to, quite literally, go with the flow.

(True story. More on that in a minute.)

For years I served as a magazine editor at Martha Stewart—and part of my job was doing regular TV segments on hers and other daytime shows. I also hosted my own daily radio show on Sirius XM for years.

Media, I’ve found, is a pretty powerful crucible for learning how to think on your feet when it matters most.

And should you decide to pursue media as part of your career (say as a contributing expert or guest, or perhaps even as an editor or producer), here are some key insights that will serve you on the air—and everywhere else.

Lesson #1: Keep it moving

In TV, you have maybe 3 to 5 minutes tops, so you have to make the best of every single one of them—especially on live TV. There is no editing, and there’s no time to hit the brakes if things go awry.

One time on Martha’s show, I was demonstrating a series of meditation apps. They worked fine during rehearsal. But when we went live? No dice. There we were, and for two long seconds the balloons that were supposed to dance across the screen, didn’t.

Martha started asking, “Why isn’t it working,” and rather than dwell on it, I waved it off (“Who knows?”) and kept things going. I said, “Well, what you would have seen, had it worked, was…” and spent a second or two explaining it, rendering the actual demo unnecessary.

In Real Life (IRL): Don’t dwell on it. Doesn’t matter if your powerpoint slides wouldn’t advance, or why three people canceled on your meeting. We waste far too much time looking backwards, trying to edit the past.

Obviously, understand a problem well enough so that you don’t let it happen again. But there are some times when inexplainable blips occur and at some point, it isn’t worth revisiting.

Instead, think like a host who is on to the following segment: “Next up! Let’s find out how to juice kale at home!” It doesn’t matter why the world didn’t going your way. Just. Keep. Going.

Lesson #2: Make an impression

The people who do well as on-air contributors are not only clear communicators—they aren’t afraid to stake their claim.

The people I booked as experts on my radio show were those who brought their ideas and opinions to the table, not the ones who played it safe all the time.

IRL: The more you waffle and hesitate, the less impressive and less interesting you become. The people who stand out and get tapped for bigger opportunities are the ones who aren’t afraid to own up to what they really think, and stand by it.

Lesson #3: Be game for anything

There’s no room on TV to do anything less than 100 percent. Even if you’re nervous. Better to see it through than fail halfway.

I was about to step onto the set of Martha to discuss a series of natural flu remedies, including the neti pot, an ages-old practice of flushing the nasal passages with warm saline water.

The plan changed five minutes before I went on the air, when the producer said, “Martha wants you to demo the neti pot.”

Um, what?

“Get me a towel and a bowl,” I said. And I walked on stage and douched my nose on national television. It was messy and, yes, I was dying a little inside as I did it. But you can’t fake a neti pot demo. You have to go all in.

(You can watch that clip here—at the 1:50 mark)

The audience laughed, Martha clapped, and a clip of it ended up on some online video called “WTF is going on with daytime TV?”

That was a win.

IRL: Commit. You’ll get real props for trying something, whether it works out or not—especially if you fully commit to doing it.

Realize that you don’t actually learn much from doing things right. You learn from doing it period. Win or lose, the effort teaches you so much more, not only about what you have done—but, more importantly, what you can do.

Want to learn more about how to be a go-to media expert? Register for my FREE online training, “5 (Little-Known) Ways to Snag Media Attention…That Even PR Pros Get Wrong” on March 15 or 16th.

What You Can Learn About Yourself at a Naked Party

You don’t really know if you would do a thing until you are in the middle of doing it. This is, I believe, how we find OUT whether we do things at all. We are often the last to know.

The other night, a few friends and I decided to stop by a party of a friend of a friend. Turns out, the party had a theme:  “Formal Wear or Underwear.”

There was one guy in a jacket and tie. I’ll let you guess what everyone else had on.

I looked down and remembered what I had under my jeans and t-shirt: A pair of $5 cotton briefs and a bra that I keep meaning to take out of rotation because it’s seen better days, but earlier that evening I was like, “Meh. Who’s gonna see it?”

My friends, who are fearless and fun, whipped off their tops in a flash (“Let’s do this!”). I could feel the blood pounding in my head as I tentatively peeled off my jeans.

I was having the sensation I get when I’m about to truly embarrass myself: I start to slip the bonds of cognition and self awareness. I flip on autopilot, leave the cockpit of my brain, crawl into coach, and stare out a window til it’s all over.

(Like that one time, years ago, when a voice over teacher had me sing to a stuffed bear so that I could find my true voice. I have blacked out the entire incident.)

I had nothing on but my t-shirt and my underwear, but had the presence of mind to put my shoes back on. Because for some reason, I felt weird going barefoot. I reasoned that I wasn’t really naked because if the sign outside a store read “no shirt, no shoes, no service,” I’d still be allowed in.

Still. Unless it’s 80 degrees outside and you’re near a body of water, it feels weird to walk around half naked in front of strangers.

What happened next was surprising: Nothing. No one said a thing or looked at me sideways. Simply because everyone was dressed exactly the same way.

Socially appropriate behavior is governed by a collective thermometer. We set it and adjust to it, whatever it is. In this case, it was set to “skivvies,” so no one, in fact, stood out. (With the exception of one man who was wearing a striped onesie. You can’t unsee that.)

I stayed for 30 minutes—long enough to prove to myself I was a good sport, and just before my mental captain roused from her nap. By 12:45 am, my ass and I were tired of hanging out.

Truth be told, after the initial thrill, this party was just as tedious as any other. Drunk girls dancing and singing too loud. Men making predictable conversation about politics or the viral video making the rounds. (Though I saw not one smart phone. I don’t know if that was party policy…or that no one had anywhere to put one.)

This experience might make me look like a fun, youthful party-goer who gives zero F’s, but that’s not true, either. I’m hardly a party animal. I was dead sober and desperate to be in bed already.

As mortifying as you might think it is to strip down to your undies in a roomful of strangers, it’s actually easier to follow suit and fit in, swim with the tide.

In a culture like ours, so obsessed with standing out, being different, independent, unique, it’s eye-opening to recognize how rarely we do that, how easy it is to get us to do a thing simply because other people are doing it.

It also calls to mind how many other times I gave into things, went along, made nice—just because it was easier. Regardless of how uncomfortable it made me.

Underwear parties are harmless and don’t matter in the grand scheme. But it’s worth noting that how we behave, treat each other, normalize things that aren’t normal (um, turn on the news), determines what we think is fair and normal and acceptable.

If I’m quick to go along with everyone else, that’s enough to make me question my actions. We all should.

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How Knowing Too Much Is Holding You Back

My family is big into board games. At around 8:30pm on any given holiday or a night when at least two people are holding beers, my brother in law rubs his hands together and asks, “Who’s up for a game?”

Taboo is one of our all-time favorites. The goal of this game is to get your teammates to guess the word you’re given—without using any of the other words listed on the card. So if the word is Santa Claus, the words you can’t use are: Christmas, holiday, December, North Pole, chimney, or gifts.

This means you have to think beyond the shortcut references that you’d normally use to explain it and start fresh. In this case, I might say, “This is a man who comes to your house the same day every year to give you things you asked for, but you never see him.” Even that may be too easy.

The most frustrating thing of all is when your teammate says something like, “Oh! You know what I mean! God. C’mon! It’s that guy! You know!”

This is a losing strategy.

In order to effectively communicate the meaning, of anything really, you need to be able to explain it to someone who doesn’t have a flipping idea what you’re talking about. And it’s what so many people—entrepreneurs, business owners, even marketers—often get wrong.

In a Harvard Business Review article called “The Curse of Knowledge,”  Chip and Dan Heath (I have no idea if they’re related), address how vague, high-level strategy language is completely unhelpful, and does nothing to differentiate a brand or a business.

The curse of knowledge is, in layman’s terms, a cognitive bias that makes it hard for you to remember or imagine what it is NOT to know a thing, because you already know it—and so you forget that other people don’t.

I see this all the time when I talk to people about their brands or missions, and they tell me things like, “I want to empower women,” and “I believe everyone can live a healthier life.” They make big, high-level sweeping statements that do nothing to differentiate them. And they skip over the nitty gritty, specific things that are SO much more helpful. They assume everyone knows. Nope.

This has real repercussions: Particularly when you try to: stand out, attract clients, make sales, close deals, or get anyone in the media to return your calls or emails. That’s when it becomes clear that…something isn’t clear.

My business partner Paula Rizzo has worked for years as a TV producer, and so she’s pitched all day and night e by people who want to get on TV and who believe they have something valuable to offer.

And she always says, “If I’m confused, it’s a no.”

The value in being able to clearly communicate what you do and why anyone should care cannot be overstated.

And if you’re having a hard time, it’s not because you’re stupid—it’s because you know too much.

Your ability to adopt the mindset of someone who has no idea and zero context on what you have to offer will determine how effectively you can land that message and get results.

Here are three points to bear in mind:

  1. We all have our shields up. There’s so much info coming at us from all angles, we can barely see straight. Your job is to get me to lower my guard. If anything you say makes me work hard to understand, I’m moving on. Your job is to compel me, to pique my curiosity, to target my need so swiftly and clearly that I am willing to get in the car with you and drive with you a bit.
  2. Don’t assume I know, or care, about anything. It’s not that I’m willfully ignorant or don’t like you. I just need to be convinced, in seconds, to pay attention to whatever it is you want to share.
  3. Play Taboo with your brand or business. It’s a good exercise: How would you, Taboo-style, describe what you do without any of the usual terms or context you’d normally rely on? Try it. It’s not so easy. Talk about it with someone who has no involvement, or, frankly, interest, in what you do. That’s a great target to practice on! When you can effectively communicate and compel someone who isn’t sure they give a damn, imagine what you do for someone who does.

Want to get more media coverage for your book, brand, or business? Join our FREE online training, “5 (Little-Known) Secrets to Snagging Media Attention…that Even PR Pros Get Wrong”

The #1 Way to Get Clear on Your Messaging

Say what you will about holidays (Hallmark and otherwise)—they give us an occasion for doing a thing (exchanging gifts, drinking green beer, singing, etc).

If you want something done, you don’t have to wait for a holiday, but you do have to give yourself the occasion for doing it.

Things like: Writing a book. Launching a podcast. Giving a TEDx talk. You can do these things…or not. You can relaunch your website. Or not. Unless you’re under pressure to do a thing, it’s hard to get motivated to do it.

I know of no better way to be accountable to your goals and figure out what exactly you’re trying to do than to speak about it in public.

Promise a group of people you’ll show up in a room and talk to them.

That’ll motivate you. It’s like throwing a party so that you have a reason to clean your house.

When you have a date on the books to show up and speak, you’ll be under considerable pressure to deliver on that promise.

And not just that—but knowing you’re going to speak on a thing forces you to get clear on your ideas, and those are the ideas that feed other, bigger projects, like books and courses.

You can use speaking to test out and explore ideas that you may want to pursue in a bigger way.

I do this for other people (as a brand messaging expert this IS what I do for a living). But I also do it for myself! I pitch ideas to speak on topics that I myself want to explore and form an opinion on.

And it works.

It helps me get a clearer sense on what it is I stand for, and what I think is most important to put out into the world.

I’ve done it for the TEDx talks I’ve given (this one and this one), but also for a range of other events and conferences.

Committing to speak on a topic gives you the occasion to form your insights.

This is why, if you’re trying to nail down your “thing,” your mission, your message, the thing you want to be known for, you’ve got to find occasions to speak.

Anywhere—networking groups, workshops, conferences, industry events. For the avid speaker, the crowning achievement is a TEDx talk. And fact is, each speaking effort improves on the last, and helps you get a clearer sense of what you’re trying to do and say.

Don’t wait to “figure out” what you’re trying to say, or assume you’ll do more speaking “later” when you know what you’re doing. No one really ever knows what they’re doing.

Start giving yourself real reasons to stand up and speak and you’ll be forced to get really clear on what’s most important, and get it out into the world in a powerful way.

Want to improve your ability to deliver compelling ideas on the TEDx stage, or anywhere else?  Check out my new live course, “30 Days to Your First TEDx Talk”—registration closes this Friday, 2/17/17 at 6p ET sharp!

3 Signs Your Brand Is Having an Identity Crisis

Your struggle with branding yourself or your business comes from two conflicting fears:

  • You don’t know who you are;
  • You don’t want to ruin what you already did/created/have

This places you at the crossroads between ignorance and fear. A lousy place to be (and we’ve all been there). As a result, you are hesitant to put a foot forward, in any direction, because of where you’ve been and where you fear to tread.

By the way, this is true for everyone I’ve ever worked with who had a brand to create, build, or promote.

You can feel attached to an old idea of who you are, an idea you think others have of you, and limiting ideas about what you CAN do. And my very favorite thing in the world is to kick those ideas over like tables in a kung fu movie.

Here are the clear markers of a brand in distress:

You’re getting a lot of business you don’t want. This is what happens when you try to serve “more” people at the expense of a more focused approach. The fear of course is that if you limit or focus, you will exclude some people and “lose” business. Don’t think about it as losing biz, but as qualifying the business you get.

You’re doing what feels safe, instead of what’s compelling. Once you develop a comfort zone with your brand or business, it’s easy to stay there. This is big trouble in little China. Because you will convince yourself that you’re “fine the way it is.” Is it, though? I’m not saying you have to go out on a limb and do crazy, off-brand stuff. But where are you pushing the envelope?

You’re striving to be competitive rather than different. Sally Hogshead (one of my faves) says in her book, How the World Sees You, that someone will always be better at this or that. If you try to be “better” than everyone, you will lose. How do you know? You’re mimicking what other brands are doing, and then trying to be the same but cheaper. And you’re more concerned with if you’re as good as, rather than leveraging what makes you memorable.

The drive to be competitive is the drive to keep up. The drive to be different is the drive to stand out—which, let’s face it, goes against everything you’re encultured to think. It’s human nature to worry whether you’re good enough, whether you fit in, whether you can be taken seriously. But if you continue to make efforts to make your brand like the others, you will be like the others, an also-ran. That ain’t no place to be.

One of the Best Lessons Trump Just Taught You

It’s been more than a week since the election that reduced the entire country to a shivering, seething pool of rage.

At this point, we’ve likely all been barked at—often on our own FB pages, including me. We’ve been told to buck up and deal with the fact that our candidate lost. Even though it’s about a lot more than that.

How are you feeling now?

We’ve had a week to endure the violent physical response to what can only be described as a kind of collective food poisoning, in which we swallowed something very bad for us and are now puking our brains out over it.

As the initial symptoms settle into a deeper, more existential ache, and we get further from November 8th and head toward uncharted and ominous waters, we think about what ELSE this means. And what, if anything, we can learn from it as people, lest we suffer a crippling cognitive dissonance.

We’ve JUST said as a nation is that it’s ok and acceptable:

To be rude and vicious, ruthless and unapologetic.

To say things and not mean them, or pretend you never said them at all.

To call people names.

To pander to applause, even if is not what you really think.

To show up without doing your homework, to not have a plan, to wing it.

To threaten anyone who disagrees with you.

To discriminate and violate.

To claim to know things you can’t possibly know.

To claim that you alone can fix it.

And that, when you do, you can win the highest seat in the land.

I don’t have kids. But if I did, I’d be hard pressed to explain why and how this happened. How can you instill in anyone—a kid, a sister, a mentee, a student, an employee—why it’s important to do more, to work harder, to be kinder, to show respect, to come prepared, to apologize for your mistakes and learn from them, to stand up for what you believe in, when we just said as a country, “It’s ok if you don’t do any of these things?”

Is there ANY good takeaway from this? Yes.

And it does not involve being a horrible person and hoping it works out if you fool enough people.

Trump is the poster child of Fake It Til You Make It. Or maybe it’s Break It Til You Make It. Either way, if we learned anything at all, it’s that working harder and being smarter or more qualified isn’t always rewarded, even when it matters most.

What this means for us is that it does not serve us one iota to be or attempt to be perfect, to wait until things are just right, to avoid standing up or saying things for fear of offending. Especially when it really, really matters.

You’ve heard that widely reported statistic about how women will apply for a job when they meet 100% of the qualifications, whereas men will apply when they meet 60%.

We already know who the most qualified candidate in this race was, and that all the qualifications in the world didn’t add up in the end. And while of course it doesn’t feel right, to many (most) of us, this applies to you. You can stop letting qualifications and perfection stand in your way, even when a tiny, insistent voice inside says, “What on god’s earth are you thinking?”

I’m guessing you don’t aspire to be like Trump in any way.

And yet, I wish I could take a tiny spiral of his DNA, modify it to remove the narcissism and hate, and use it to inoculate every woman against her own fear and self-doubt.

That way, you could stop self-censoring. Apologizing for things that don’t require it. Minimizing things that matter to you.

You could start going for things you want, even if you’re not sure you can do it or if anyone will let you try. Applying for better jobs. Asking for more money. Walking away from things that don’t feel right. Standing up for people who need it.

I struggle with this myself. It took me a week to get it together enough to write this post, even when I thought, “Oh, everyone’s already said everything, what’s the point.” I know that voice because it’s the same one that, 20 years ago, told me not to try to be a writer, because the world had enough of them. It took me a long time to shake that.

Trump may be president, but we are in charge of our decisions, of our lives, and of how this all turns out. So we need to stop worrying whether we can be enough or know enough, letting rules and requirements hold us hostage. So that we can stop all this nonsense and start running the world already.

Don’t just do something. Make something.

Writing letter to a friend. Selective focus and shallow depth of field.

During a recent interview on SiriusXM, Howard Stern asked Lady Gaga if she listens to what the “kids are into these days” so that she knows what to do next, if she’s calculated and preplanned each phase of her career.

The answer? No.

Sure, she likes to listen to music and know what’s going on—in dance clubs, the world in general. But she’s not nearly as calculated as people think. In fact, she laughs at the idea. What’s her priority? To make music. To make people happy. To create.

Sounds so great, right? Ah the life of an artist, and a successful one, to lie around and dream and write. Well, not so fast. You don’t think there are a million people screaming in her ears about what she should and shouldn’t do? Shit she has to do and doesn’t want to? At the end of the day, she is running a business; she just prioritizes the making, not just the “doing.” And it seems to be working for her.

You know what makes my head hurt?

The degree of calculation required to plan, launch, and operate an online business, or any business for that matter. Since I just launched an online business myself, I know first hand that it’s a pain in the ass. Marketing can be joyless and I try really hard not to let it be.

Too much SEO or CRM or data analytics? I feel like I’m being embalmed alive. 

In the end there’s no replacement for creating—and nothing you measure or calculate can be as brilliant and moving as something that’s born from a true creative effort. It’s easy to get stuck on box-checking, task-doing, to think that those things equal “productive.” They don’t. 

Look, we all have business to take care of. But, if, like me, you start to feel your energy drop and everything starts to feel stiff and pointless and dry as a bone, that’s a sign that you’re getting too focused on the pipes and not enough on what flows through them.

Create instead of do. Make instead of manage.

This is not just for artists, by the way. We have unfairly decided that some people are creative and others aren’t. Couldn’t be further from true. We are all creative by nature, and the less you make stuff, the more robotic and listless you will feel.

I just returned from a writing retreat, a non-negotiable event that I attend twice a year, no matter what I have going on. Spending a brief but intense period focused on the act of creating and supporting others’ work fills my tank and completely shifts my mental state. I feel in control, and calm, and rich with potential. And, far more able to put up with the regular drudgery.

Don’t wait for someone else to give you the time or opportunity to do what you do, whether it’s sketching or writing or woodworking. And yes, you have to make time for it—which is well, as critical as making just about anything else.

Don’t Get Good At Things You Hate

masks-1548494-639x426A recent episode of This American Life (#598: “My Undesirable Talent”) told the stories of people who had become really good at things they regretted.

One of them was a guy named Zora, born to Ugandan parents and raised in Fresno, who went off to college and pretended to be an African exchange student. He did a whole Coming to America Eddie Murphy impression, first as a joke, and then, because so many people fell for it–and him–he had to sustain it for months.

He had fun with it at first–mainly because playing the extroverted, fun, upbeat kid from Uganda, he found, earned him far more friends and attention than he’d ever earned as the sole black kid in Fresno. He liked this newfound personality and character, and so did everyone else. He was beloved.

But, as you can imagine, he cracked under the pressure.

Forming real relationships under the guise of being someone else (in effect, mocking everyone you now call a friend) is, I imagine, a terrific source of stress. Especially when one of them was a girl he really liked.

When he finally broke character, his friends were thrown, but most recovered…except for the girl, who understandably felt mocked and betrayed. She was disappointed because he turned out to be, well, like every other dude. They were both hurt.

The whole thing kind of reminded me of Mrs. Doubtfire. And Tootsie. Anyway.

My point is this: How often do we get good at a thing because of what other people seem to want or need from us—and how long can and do we keep it up?

Fine, Zora is an extreme example. But think about it: How often or for how long have you been doing a thing you’re good at, that you don’t even want to do?

Because of the work I do in the brand space (ew did I really just say that) I know that there’s this level of weirdness that happens when someone fears they’re “pretending at” being someone or something else. There’s this whole panicky thing that happens. I’ve seen it. They worry that they won’t get “past” who they were or they don’t know who they are now.

Your brand shouldn’t be some other fake, glossy version of you. It should be, well, you.

Who you are now. And that that does change over time. It evolves. Like any organic thing.

The less of a gap between who you are and what you represent, the less confused you will feel and the more powerful your positioning. I always say this about brand: It’s a blend of your promise, your presence, and your practice—in other words, what expectations you set, what you’re like to be around, or what vibe you give off, and what you do over and over again.

So my warning is this: Don’t work hard at being a thing you don’t want to deliver on. Seems like a no-duh. But really think about it. Are you doing that?

This is of particular concern for one-man shops, freelancers, solos, business owners who are looking to grow and shift away perhaps from what they’ve been doing, to what they want to do.

Be wary of doing the things you can do, especially if you don’t want to do them.

Whether that’s certain services or offerings, or even being the person people come to for “x” when you don’t want to do “x” anymore.

The reason you may be afraid of doing this is because, like anyone, you’re afraid of turning business away. You think people are coming to you because of this one thing you do, even if you loathe doing it.

It requires an act of bravery to come out as you, to do what will serve you, even if it’s not what everyone else expects.

But what’s the alternative? Faking an accent so long you forget what you actually sound like? Bad idea.

Why Writers Need to Think Like Entrepreneurs

Old books on a wooden shelf.

Old books on a wooden shelf.

I sat next to a woman at a lunch recently who heads up the magazine publishing program at NYU, and she said the students are, understandably, feeling down about what they see as bleak prospects in magazine publishing—simply because those seats are becoming fewer and fewer.

It’s easy to interpret the shuttering of (many) print magazines and newspapers as ‘death’ to publishing, but I don’t see it that way. What we’re seeing is a shift in consumption habits, in expectations, and in business models. Content may be king, but we’ve also become accustomed to having it be, well free. What is and will continue to change is how we pay for it, and who is paying for it. Yes, that changes things.

Print magazines are, simply, a platform. No different from any other platform you use (newspapers, books, blogs, and so on). As beloved as they are to you, they were a platform, and platforms evolve or die off. We’ve gotten attached to them, of course—we’ve had them longer. Now social media and other content platforms come and go so fast that they seem disposable; we hardly have a chance for habits to form around them!

But one thing is for sure, and this I can say without question: There will always, always be a need for great writers and storytellers, people to create and curate. We need them to see, capture and interpret the world for us and always will.

How can we not? With all the content pouring at us from all platforms, streaming toward us through every device, we rely on editors to tell us what to pay attention to, and what not to. The era of the Big Magazine and Big Publisher may be shifting dramatically (and yet as you can see, they’re not totally gone), but what that means is that the role of the storyteller is even more important. You go to the salon for the stylist, not the other way around, right?

Enter: personal branding.

Writers are now responsible for their own brands. Many of them cry that the surplus of content has driven the fees (and quality) down. If you are a writer and your claim to fame is that you can string words together, you’re no different from a plumber; you both can combine separate objects so that something vital can flow through them. Fine. You can do a thing. Doesn’t mean I need to pay you for it.

Some writers feel they should be paid to do what they do because, well, they like doing it. Sorry! That’s not a reason for a job! Would you hire a plumber because he said, “But I really love plumbing! It’s my passion!” Nope. You hire a person based on how well they solve your problem, period. (See my TEDx talk for why passion isn’t enough.)

Enter: entrepreneurship.

The future doesn’t belong to just people who can do a skill; it belongs to those who can find ways to create value for someone. If you want to make a living as a writer, editor, OR plumber, you have to identify a need, ideally someone who will pay you for your solution. And you need to supply that solution in a way that suits your customer, suits your market.

This doesn’t depress me, and it shouldn’t depress you, either. We are living in a very exciting time for content! It used to be you had to pick magazines or books, and jobs for content were fairly limited (even if there were more seats at traditional publishers). Now, the degree to which you create something amazing determines how well you do. And that is in your hands.