** announcement! contentaudience.com is going away, the emails you get from me will start coming from email@example.com after today**
I took my dad to the ER on Christmas Eve for COVID. He was released about a week later and is feeling much better.
When I got to their place to get him, his oxygen being low made getting him up, moving around, and willing to go to the hospital take long enough that Ann and I figured I should quarantine.
And so I spent about a week in our smallish office/guest bedroom, which felt like being alone in a virtual waiting room, but looked more like a dorm room by the end of it. That was from Christmas Eve to New Years Eve, until I tested negative and we reunited to bring in the new year with some TV on the couch.
Unless you count watching all the Star Wars movies in release order, I could not bring myself to do a single real thing for a few days – the few days where he was in the ICU, we didn’t know how he’d respond to the treatment, and we weren’t getting much info.
Yesterday was the first day I got to really see him. And it made me realize that.. funk? cloud? hadn’t gone away since it all happened. Everything was trite and then something really small like getting to sit near him yesterday with the sun out on a cold day felt big and meaningful.
list of annual goals vs annual theme vs… just making some decisions
And so this year I didn’t have the wherewithal to write a list of annual goals. Normally I just tuck them away on my computer anyway, only ever look at them again when I’m drafting the following year’s list. I even said I wasn’t going to write a big list last year, and did it anyway.
I’ve also tried themes, but I find those hard to attend to. Do you remember the theme you picked for 2020? I sure don’t. So the new years move –
Just over a year since creating contentaudience.com and I’m reconsolidating it (back) into inboundfound.com.
(If you’re new to the list, inboundfound.com is the boutique digital marketing firm I run with my wife, Ann, while contentaudience.com is/was exploring specialization without cutting Inbound Found down).
fear in specializing
There were lots of reasons we split the sites, but they really boiled down to fear – me wanting to specialize but also being afraid to let go of generalist lifestyle, the price you pay for letting random but sometimes interesting opportunities that come down the pike dictate your days.
Starting CA.com was like wanting the generalist bandaid to just get old and dirty and fall off instead of just ripping it off.
Looking back, the simple answer was to specialize Inbound Found and not start a new site at all. Walk it back if it didn’t work out. At the very least, we could have specialized incrementally and let the changes in a steady direction compound, by adding to a “work we will not do” type commandments list and tack it up somewhere to remind myself as I went. Number 1 would be “thou shall not hand-code a landing page.”
curiosity in specializing
“Specializing” when you work for yourself means thinking smaller to go deeper, which is weird and scary until you get down into a big hairy problem, and then curiosity around that complexity kicks in and takes over.
The required energy to move through fear to get into the curiosity isn’t just a one time fee. It’s like moving a boulder. Stop moving the boulder (stop writing, researching, developing IP) and getting it moving again will take a lot of energy.
I think creating opportunities to get curious like that means making room, like first thing in the mornings, to work on it. Not “making time,” but making room by being honest about what I can take on.
specializing as attention management, making room to do less
I’ve never been able to “make time” for things without cutting something first. The wrong things get the squeeze if you don’t cut first.
Because I kept on with the old stuff, but also was doing CA stuff, CA clients that would pop up, willing to give me a chance, and try the content recommendations productized service, would get put on the back burner.
Which is not cool.
Unless I’m constantly focusing my energy on cultivating the desired outcome of (right now) audience getting traffic for expert websites, the random bigco type projects that bring bigger checks will sneak up to the top of my to do list, balloon in number and size of tasks, and keep pushing my hopes and dreams of real expertise cultivation along a very deliberate path down the list into that bottom 30%.
And we all know what gets done at the bottom of the to do list.. (nothing!).
marketing for soloists != marketing for bigcos
Though it was not my intention, Philip’s TEI was also heavy duty marketing training for me as a soloist, completely different from the high-resource-easy-traction type activities that work for bigcos.
Worse when it’s for yourself. It’s very weird to be quirky and worried what people think and often putting my foot in my mouth or not being a good room reader, and then publishing a bunch.
settling on horizontal specializing
I feel like we’re “better at” the bigco stuff and so still not sure what to do there. But focusing more on “experts” in the sense of “experts with some resources” like firms, consultancies, agencies, is the current thinking. Or at least, the group I’m imagining as I think about who I’m writing these email/post things for and focusing content recommendations service for.
I also missed having my wife-wife Ann as my work-wife. I get some of that back now.
And so the new inboundfound.com is live.. Take a look, we could use your feedback on it!
Otherwise, I’ll see you in your inbox as Jim Thornton (firstname.lastname@example.org) next.