Michelangelo said, “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” You may think the important thing is to have a clear image of that statue. But I think the important thing is the chisel he used to cut away the extraneous stone.
Not that I’m trying to compare myself with Michelangelo, but as I look back as an Owner at what I’ve managed to create, there is something in common: a relentless, never-ending, ongoing effort at bringing that statue out into the open.
For my business —speaking, consulting, training and coaching— it’s about content mastery. Being a subject matter expert may not be a completely necessary or sufficient condition for success, but it sure ranks way up there. It’s hard for others to compete against you if you’re the best there is at what you do.
Look at all the different ways this has been said: Find a niche and dominate it. Define your market so you can own it. Be number one in your segment. They all amount to the same thing—be the Master of Your Content.
But how? You may not like the answer, but it’s Michelangelo’s answer as well as mine. You keep on chipping away at that stone: day in, day out, every week, every month, every year. Never perfection, but always progress. Keep the back foot moving. As Chris Brogan likes to say, learn to love the grind.
For my mentor, David Maister, that meant signing up for 12 articles for American Lawyer, one per month for a year. For me, it meant writing blog posts and articles constantly since 2007 —with constantly improving content. Always push the thinking. Always push the boundaries. Always strive to add to the content, or the mastery, or both. Keep chipping that stone away to reveal the statue.
I believe you do not have to envision the statue perfectly up front. I’m someone who never played the “you must have a goal” game; I kind of followed my nose. (Not because I’m virtuous; it’s just that I could never figure out what the goal should be). For me, the statue came to reveal itself as I chipped, and my view of it changed subtly over time with the removal of stone. The key thing was not my vision of the statue —it was the constant chipping away. That’s what got me where I am.
Note: you can’t play this game if your aim is to flip your business in two years (unless maybe your subject matter expertise is flipping companies). You play it for the long haul. The good news is, it may be slow getting there but it always gets better. Every day you chip away is a day you get better. Every day. You never stop getting better —unless you stop chipping away.
And one day you wake up, and realize someone just said, “You know, he’s about the best there is at this kind of subject.” And let me tell you, that is a wonderful thing.