It’s Saturday night, around 11pm, and you’re fully down the rabbit hole, researching your competition, hopping from website to website, social channel to social channel, the pit in your stomach sinking lower and lower.
Sure, you know comparison is the thief of joy or whatever that saying you heard once is, but you NEED TO KNOW.
You justify it by reasoning that surely by keeping tabs on what the competition is up to it will only help you run your own business better.
You sure as hell don’t know what the hell you’re doing, and by the looks of things, they certainly do. Maybe you could learn a thing or two.
They have the types of high-end feature clients you dream of, their blog posts are shared regularly, they post engaging content on every conceivable social channel, of course they put out a highly ranked podcast as well, and what’s that? They’re getting into YouTube now too??
Your first reaction, of course, is to immediately map out a plan for how you can do everything the competition is doing, BUT BETTER.
“Maybe you’ll even get on TikTok,” you muse to yourself, “I need to one-up them somewhere.”
You sign up for TikTok out of curiosity only to find they’re already there.
You add TikTok to your now multi-page list of required content and social channels on which you’ll out-produce everyone else in your industry and shut your computer.
You resolve that Monday morning is the day you’re finally going to step up and get into the arena with the heavyweights whose shadows you’ve been living in up to this point.
You don’t know how you’re going to do it, being a small shop without the team or resources of some of your larger competitors, but that shouldn’t matter should it? With the power of the internet at your disposal, you can accomplish anything right?
Sure you’ll need to hustle. Stay up late. Maybe work weekends.
But it’ll all be worth it when you grow to the point where you’re the one with the big clients, the fancy website, mountains of content.
I don’t know about you, but the “strategy” outlined above doesn’t really sound like a way I want to spend my life.
I care about growing my business, continually improving, doing better, more interesting work for more interesting clients, but I don’t believe that flashier, more omnipresent marketing is the only way to do that.
Yes, that method can 100% work for some businesses with some types of goals, and it’s what we help people do with our podcast and content amplification work at Counterweight Creative.
But that’s not the type of business I want to be myself.
For people like us, it’s essential to be clear on the type of business and lifestyle we want for ourselves, the types of clients we want to work with and how we want to be seen in the world.
Often, that means distancing ourselves from the pressure to be everywhere all the time, because for most of us, that strategy is not in service of building the businesses and lives we really want.
Now, believe me, I’m as susceptible as anyone to getting sucked into the comparison game. Of seeing what others are doing and wanting to add that piece into what I’m doing.
Shiny objects abound and it’s easy to go chasing each and every one of them in search of a short term boost in attention.
More and more, however, I’m finding myself gravitating to putting in time and effort into developing the areas that will pay off in the long haul. Actions that I take consistently now that may not be useful in the short term, but will pay off massively 3, 5, or 10 years from now.
Unfortunately, in a world where most of us have a to-do list whose end only gets further and further out of sight with each passing day, practices aimed at investing in the long-term are often the first to get cut in favour of putting out short-term fires.
Long Term Strategies
Things like designing a client experience that goes beyond getting the work done and feels like magic and causes people to rave about you.
Investing in helping your team develop as individuals as much outside of work as in the work they do for you.
Developing a robust point of view and philosophy about the work you do and understanding how you can use your work to move the culture forward.
Investing in developing real skills like communication, empathy, vulnerability, resilience and bravery on top of your field’s traditional hard, technical skills.
I’m convinced that for people like us, people with big ideas, a desire to change the culture, and a belief that we can do it, these are the things we need to be focusing on developing and growing into.
Forget Your Existing Metrics
The results of these efforts aren’t as easily measurable as putting time into developing an Instagram strategy and seeing our follower count grow. But for most of us, Instagram is not an essential piece in moving our visions forward.
Besides, your long term investments are going to far outlast Instagram.
When we focus on the long term and invest in the areas we’re sure can only help us achieve our bigger purposes, the comparisons begin to fade, the pressure to do more eases and short-term tactics begin to feel like a distraction.
We’re able to stay in our lane with confidence that whatever changes may come in our industries, societies, and the world, we’re equipping ourselves to be leaders in the future.
Pretty soon we start to feel like while we might be trailing our competition in the short-term sprint for attention, we’re quietly pulling away in the long-term marathon for impact.
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