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For those of us with multiple passions and numerous skills, the single biggest challenge is curating what we share. The reality is that people put other people in boxes. We have a compulsive need to categorize. People put other people in boxes because it’s too difficult to try to comprehend the true complexity of each and every individual.

We talk about how to use this to your advantage, and the one exception that will allow you to be known for multiple things. In the spirit of multiple passions, you get to hear a brand new electronic music track inside this episode and we close out the second half of the show discussing the way to close the gap between reality and what’s in your mind’s eye.

Show Notes
  • 05:14 For those of us with multiple passions and numerous skills, the single biggest challenge is curating what we share.
  • The reality is that people put other people in boxes.

  • 06:02 We have a compulsive need to categorize. People put other people in boxes because it’s too difficult to try to comprehend the true complexity of each and every individual.
  • 09:33 Who do you know that is a woodworker? Who do you know that is a back end programmer? Chances are, the answer to both of those questions are two people who have highly curated what they share. Most of the time, the people that come to mind are the people that primarily focus on those things. You probably have dozens of other friends that can do woodworking or back end programming in addition to their many other skills, but there’s a reason you thought of a primary two.
  • 10:30 This is the power of curation. You see, people are already going to put you in a box. It’s not a pleasant fact, but it is a reality. They only have so much capacity for each person and for their own sanity, they need to categorize heavily. If people were to say in a word that you’re “That [blank] guy,” or “That [blank] girl,” what would that blank be?
  • 11:20 When it comes to following online, we have even less of a capacity for individual complexity and an even greater need for curation in order to stand out.
  • 11:36 People are already going to put you in a box, that’s not something you get to decide. What you can decide is what that box is.
  • Embrace the fact that you will be put in a box and design what that box is.

    You have an opportunity to shape the box others are already going to put you in.

  • 11:55 How do you shape it? Curate what you share. This is the most difficult part. See, because you are a complex individual with many interests and skills, your default state is to project this complex array of interests in a stream of consciousness. Most people simply dump whatever it is they’re thinking about or working on in that particular moment. It could be woodworking today, it could be back end programming tomorrow, and suddenly, a video of some guitar playing.
  • 13:10 There’s absolutely nothing wrong with letting other people seeing different aspects of who you are. It’s completely natural and human to have varied interests and to want to do many different kinds of things. But if you want to be known for something, you have to curate what you share. You have to embrace the box.
  • 14:27 With friends, sure, be your normal self and be open with your many interests. But when it comes to crafting a persona and making yourself known for something, you have to leverage the box people are already putting you in. You don’t have control over whether or not you go into a box, but you can influence what kind of box they put you in.
  • We’re cognitively limited to maintaining 150 close relationships.

  • 15:01 You can process the complexities and multifaceted nuances of those 150 individuals, but engagement with people beyond that is superficial.
  • 18:17 People simply do not have the capacity to process the complexity of you being a woodworking, programming, guitar player. You may very well be all of those things, but…
  • You have a choice: The choice is to be known for one of them or to be known for none of them. That’s the harsh truth.

  • 19:08 You attract what you project, but if you project noise you don’t attract anything. Noise is the unpleasant combination of many dissonant things. Imagine you’re in a cityscape. There’s a song playing on a boom box, a jack hammer, cars driving by, people shouting a conversation, horns honking, the faint chirp of nearby birds, and it’s raining on top of that… sensory overload. It’s very difficult to process those individual sounds. Can it be done? Sure. If you stopped a passerby and asked him if he could distinguish the chirping birds from the noise he would say yes. But had you not stopped him, he very likely would not have noticed the birds.
  • 21:34 That is the problem with noise. When there are too many layers of complexity, no one layer is distinguished or processed. The song goes unappreciated, the conversation lost, the birds unnoticed. When you do not curate what you share, you create noise. If you want to be noticed, you have to selectively project the thing you want to be known for. This is the only way you will stand apart from the crowd. The narrower your focus, the more people will be able to digest what you’re about. You’re already going to be put in a box, you might as well make it the most clearly labeled one.
  • 22:35 What you project determines your brand, yes, but the wonderful thing is you’re not limited to this one thing indefinitely. In the beginning, you are limited. But as time goes on, once you’ve established yourself as a specialist in this one area, you will develop an audience.

    People want to follow those who look like they have a sense of direction.

  • They want to know what to expect. You’ve given this to them in the form of your sole focus on one thing over time.
  • 23:31 Now that you’ve developed the audience, you have the freedom to pivot. You can actually scale from there and even move from one thing to the next. Here’s the beautiful part of this kind of evolution: the people that know you for that original thing will continue to know you for that thing. When you pivot and begin to shift your sole focus to something else, some will continue to follow you, again because of your clear sense of direction, while others will be satisfied knowing you only for the original thing. You still haven’t lost. Not only do you have your original fans, but you’re also bringing some of them with you to the next thing, and then on top of that, you have the brand new audience you’ll begin developing as you begin this new pursuit.
  • 24:55 Only this time, your growth will be exponential because of your track record and social proof. You’re no longer starting from zero, because you are known for something. This is where things get interesting, because although people cannot process complexity all at once, they do possess the capacity to process additive complexity. When the complexity is cumulative, they are able to keep up, no problem. Just look at the complexity of various character development in TV shows. If the writers tried to develop every single character within a single episode, it would be too much. But when done slowly over time, the viewer is invested and able to process the growth and advancement.
  • 25:56 Let’s say you curated your projections for several years as a woodworker. You’re now known as a skilled woodworker and have developed an audience for such things. If you were at this point to pivot to back end programming, people are now able to process you as “That woodworking guy turned programmer.” Do you see? They’re able to follow your evolution because you roped them in initially with your sole focus. You simplified your projection enough to attract them. You had a clear sense of direction and gave them the indication that they could know what to expect with you.
  • 26:26 Once people are on board, you’ll find that a large number will continue to sail on your ship so long as it heads consistently in one, true direction at a time.
  • Storytelling
  • 28:07 The camping trip in the woods with the old story teller around the campfire.
  • 33:06 I love illustrating and doing video and podcasting and lettering, but the reason I was successful is because I curated lettering. That’s when I experienced the biggest inflection point in my exposure on Dribbble. Most people are afraid to niche down because they think “I’m more than that. I can do so much more. The world deserves to see everything that I’m good at.” But they’re not going to be able to process it.
  • The world cannot process your awesomeness.

  • 35:20 The only way to get them in, is to dumb it down. You have to simplify it, and you have to put it in a nice box that can be labeled very clearly. Once they see that what you have is awesome, then you say, “Yeah? You like that? How about THIS?” Once you have an invested audience, you can take them along for the ride and share your continued story with them.
  • Closing the Gap Between Reality & Your Mind’s Eye
  • 36:13 Sean makes music. Debuting the 051014 electronic music track.
  • 43:25 You have to wade through a sea of sucky work—that’s the only way you’re going to close the gap.
  • 43:33 While the idea in your mind is perfect, the work will not be quite what you see in your mind at first, but you have to ship it. The unwillingness to put out imperfect work will hold you back. You have to suck for awhile. You have to put out work that is less-than-perfect.
  • 44:25 The only difference between you and the people that are at the level you want to be at is their willingness to put out less-than-perfect work until they get to that level. Guess what? You may actually be more talented. You may even have more beautiful pictures in your mind. But beautiful pictures in your mind are worthless to everyone else. They don’t get to experience them, and you don’t get to share them with anyone.
  • 46:56 Focusing on one thing at a time gives your full attention to whatever you’re working on. Sounds simple, but a lot of people think multitasking is a reality. In truth, there is no such thing as multitasking. All you’re doing is quickly diverting your attention. The more things that you allow to divert your attention, the lower the quality of the output.
  • 49:37 Trying to pursue multiple passions simultaneously is doing them each a disservice.
  • 49:48 “Am I just stuck with this one thing that I’ve chosen right now forever?”
  • 49:58 Assume it’s just a season because it almost certainly is. Picking something and curating and focusing is not the end of everything else.