Are You Afraid Of The Wrong Thing?

I’m guessing you’ve heard about – if not experienced firsthand – the abysmal stretch of weather we’ve had here in New England over the past couple of weeks.

After a December and good part of January in which it barely snowed at all, my town – a suburb 25 miles west of Boston – has received over 50 inches of snow just since the Academy Award nominations were announced last month (not that I am suggesting a connection).

Indeed, in just a couple of weeks, the “Isn’t it fun and oh so beautiful?” comments that you hear around town have devolved into, “Why do we live here again?”

But you’ll never hear me complaining.

Because while it’s certainly true that it can get really snowy and bitterly cold for a couple of months each year, I take comfort in the knowledge that here in New England, there’s little that can actually kill you.

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No tornadoes, no earthquakes, no wildfires, no floods. No alligators, no grizzly bears, no poisonous snakes or spiders. From a Mother Nature perspective, it’s like living with your parents for the rest of your life: Nothing terrible will ever happen; you’re just constantly miserable.

Anyway, when the first big storm (“Winter Storm Juno”) hit a week ago Monday, we got more or less what was predicted. Everything was shut down, road travel was banned and schools were closed for two days while the state dug out. No surprises.

Just a couple of hundred miles south in New Jersey, however, it was a totally different story.

There, and despite dire forecasts from the National Weather Service which described the coming storm using words such as “colossal,” “crippling,” “historic,” “cow-smothering,” “Shaq-afied,” and “AAAArrrggh!!!” (I may have made a few of those up), accumulation stayed mostly in the one to five inch range.

Oops.

From that point, at least one thing about the storm unfolded as predicted … everyone blamed the weather people:

“Why can’t they ever get it right?”

“How hard can it be?”

“Those guys are idiots.”

But the truth is, and as Nate Silver explains in way too much detail in his book, The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail – But Some Don’t, accurate weather forecasting is incredibly difficult, requiring one to anticipate the path of a multi-factor, rapidly-moving, three-dimensional bit of chaos. And in real time, no less.

And yet difficult or not, being a meteorologist is a no-win occupation. You get it right, and nobody gives you any credit. You get it wrong, and everybody hates you.

Fortunately, our situation as solo professionals is exactly the opposite.

What I mean is that not only does the general public not attack us when we are wrong, they mostly don’t even notice.

I’m not talking here about the work you do for clients; I’m talking about the things you put out into the world in the name of marketing: Your web site, your newsletter, your blog, your social media activity and more.

Some people may notice some of it (if you’re lucky). But I guarantee you that you’d have to do, say or write some horrible, terrible, idiotic stuff for it to explode in your face.

Most of what most of us do remains well below the radar of everyone else.

Why am I mentioning all this? Because in my experience, what keeps most solo professionals from creating and distributing content, in any form, is a fear of what other people will think.

What if there’s a typo? What if somebody disagrees with me? What if someone else has already made the point I’m making?

All possible, absolutely.

But I’ve got a much bigger, much more likely, much more dangerous-to-your-success-as-a-solo-professional “What If” to consider:

What if nobody knows you’re alive because you hardly ever open your mouth?

I’m no linguist, but that would seem to be the opposite of the definition of marketing.

Here’s the bottom line. I’m not suggesting that you be careless or crazy or sloppy in your marketing. Clearly, good quality work reflects well on you.

I am saying, however, that if you insist on perfecting, polishing and fine-tuning every little bit of everything you do before you put it out there for others to see, it will take you a lot longer to be noticed, let alone remembered, by anyone.


What marketing or content tactic is the hardest for you to release to the world? Share your thoughts below.

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10 thoughts on “Are You Afraid Of The Wrong Thing?

  1. Charles Alexander

    The hardest one for me to release, is sending people to my site. I am never quite happy with it.

    p.s.
    I am also afraid that the link on the newsletter, went to the “What Kind of Work Do You Do?” post. It’s almost like you mean to do th…….oh, I see what you did there!

    Reply
  2. Bruce Horwitz

    re: P.S. There’s something wrong on the sign-up page in the picture of my dog and me (good thing I’m not a weatherman). Do you see it?

    Uh, the tie dye shirt is most certainly wrong! ;^)

    Reply
  3. Sarah Gazia

    Hi Michael
    I love all your newsletters (and I get a lot of newsletters) but the topic in this one really hit home.

    As I’m positioning myself as a content writer, I tend to really REALLY obsess about making my content exceptional before I release it into the world. And the forum I have the most problem with releasing it to…LinkedIn. But given that my target market is other businesses – this is one that I should really be posting content to.

    I forced myself to post the first link to one of my blog posts on LinkedIn this week and your newsletter has arrived at just the right time to stop me panicking about the imaginary ‘judgement’ I felt was going to descend. Thank you!

    P.S. I’m about to head out into the raging 37 Celcius heat here in Australia, thinking fondly of snowdrifts…

    Reply
    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Hi Sarah!

      And greetings from “up over.” I asked Siri what 37 degrees Celcius was in Fahrenheit and the answer was 98.6. Which, it would seem, should be exactly comfortable.

      And I know what you mean about having trouble hitting send. I think it can be particularly hard for those who are in the content business. The good news is that your writing is so far above average, what may seem imperfect to you tends to be well received by the general public.’

      Stay cool!
      Michael

      Reply
  4. Rick Pollak

    Hi Michael,

    Your post inspired me to read my favorite passage from the book “If You Want to Write” by Brenda Ueland. Even though her book was published in 1938, her advice is still timely for today’s solo professionals. I want to share this quote – it helps me when I’m spending too much time trying to write a perfect paragraph:

    “It is like this: there are wonderfully gifted people who write a little piece and then write it over and over again to make it perfect—absolutely, flawlessly perfect, a gem. But these people only emit about a pearl a year, or in five years. And that is because of the grind, the polishing, i.e., the fear that the little pearl will not be perfect and unassailable. But this is all a loss of time and a pity. For in them there is a fountain of exuberant life and poetry and literature and imagination, but it cannot get out because they are so anxiously busy polishing the gem.”

    Thanks for reminding me I won’t loose business if theirs a misteak in my content ;-). What’s scaring me now is the Yeti standing on the snow bank peering into my office window. And I’m on the second floor!

    Rick

    Reply
  5. Martha Legare

    Michael – saw your 5 Tips, thanks to the other Michael, (McLaughlin). And your graciously written, but disgustingly clear, article on perfection spoke to me. Guess I WILL be reading your newsletter from now on…. thanks.

    Reply

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