Do you have a favorite joke? I do, and it goes like this:
Two guys are out elk hunting. They’re crouched down in the woods when suddenly, they see a man running towards them, waving his hands and yelling, “I’m not an elk, I’m not an elk!”
One of the hunters calmly raises his rifle and shoots him.
The other hunter says, “What are you doing?! Didn’t you hear that guy yell, ‘I’m not an elk'”?
The first hunter says, “Oh geez, my fault. I thought he said he was an elk.”
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I came across that joke several years ago, in a bookstore in Harvard Square.
I thought it was so funny, in fact, that even 15 minutes later, as I was walking down the street alone, I could barely keep from laughing out loud.
The odd thing is, when I tell that joke to other people, I get one of two distinct reactions:
- Prolonged, hysterical laughter.
- Nothing. Not even a smile.
It’s one of those jokes that people either love or hate. Which makes it, frankly, a little scary to tell.
Unlike most jokes, where it’s simply a question of how much people are going to laugh, with this one, you’re either a hero or a moron when it’s over.
But I keep telling it (just ask my immediate family), because to me, the opportunity for reaction #1 is worth the risk of reaction #2.
Many would-be content-creating businesspeople, however, see things in exactly the opposite way:
Despite having great, compelling ideas and points of view, they are reluctant to put those down on paper – let alone push the scary “send” button when they’re done.
Why? Because to them, the risks outweigh the benefits.
They’re worried that…
… some people may disagree;
… somebody else may have already made the same observation;
… they’re not qualified to express an expert opinion in the first place.
If you find yourself feeling this way – and, as a result, not creating content – I have some terrific, easy to implement advice for you: Stop it.
Because while I acknowledge that it’s a scary problem, it’s actually a very small one. Being criticized for something you may say or write in the realm of content creation rarely happens.
A much bigger problem, and one that happens every day to tens of thousands of professionals, is anonymity.
You’re out there working hard, doing your best, trying to stand out … but few people know who you are, let alone what you do or how you might help them.
When you create and share content, however – newsletters, blogs, videos, infographics, free downloads, podcasts, books, etc. – your reach expands exponentially, well beyond what you can do in person.
Just yesterday, for example, I got an email from a journalist who asked me to comment on an article she was writing. How’d she find me?
She was doing some Googling and found a newsletter I had written that was republished (with my permission) on a different publication’s web site. When her article comes out, my reach will expand even further.
And this happy chain of events? It all began because I created some content and pushed the “send” button.
Here’s the bottom line. Like joke-telling, sharing your thoughts with people you may not even know is scary, no doubt about it. It’s much easier to hang back and let somebody else take the risk.
That said, and given that the risk in creating content is so low and the potential benefit so high, you are missing out on a tremendous opportunity by letting fear keep you on the sidelines.
So try this. Start the new year by committing to a regular schedule of content creation. Don’t worry about how good it is – your job is to just keep doing it.
Pretty soon, it will get better and easier. Pretty soon after that, it will make your phone ring.
And that’s no joke.
- Please share your favorite joke (extra credit if it involves an elk).
- How do you get past the fear of pushing “send?”
- What’s your content creation goal for 2017?
Share your comments below!
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I laugh just thinking about that one!
1. What’s green and invisible? This head of lettuce (I hold out my hand with nothing in it). I guess that could be an elk too.
2. Think about what Seth Godin says about “lizard brain” and “shipping”. It’s worth a Google.
3. One piece of new content/week, while making sure one of those pieces is video.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year folks!
I love all three, Charles!
Horse (sadly not an elk) walks into a bar.
The barkeep says’ “Why the long face?”
1. Priest is walking in the woods when he comes upon a bear. As the bear rises up and growls, the priest exclaims “O Heavenly Father, please turn this bear into a religious, pious, peaceful animal and spare me”. The bear bows its head, places its paws on the priest, and says “Give us this day our daily bread.”
2. Just do it. It’s not life or death, like the bear. You’d be surprised how many people respond and ask how things are going.
3. Stick to a schedule – one new piece per month, published across multiple fronts throughout the month.
Stretch goal – get published in at least 3 different sites in 2017.
I’m with you on the schedule, Harold. It’s so easy to keep pushing publishing to the back of the line.
A group of Kentucky second, third, and fourth graders, accompanied by
two female teachers, went on a field trip to Churchhill Downs the famous
Louisville track, to see and learn about thoroughbred horses.
When it was time to take the children to the bathroom, it was decided
that the girls would go with one teacher and the boys would go with the
The teacher assigned to the boys was waiting outside the men’s room when
one of the boys came out and told her that none of them could reach the
Having no choice, she went inside, helped the boys with their pants, and
began hoisting the boys up, one by one, holding onto their “wee-wees” to
direct the flow away from their clothes.
As she lifted one, she couldn’t help but notice that he was unusually
well endowed. Trying not to show that she was staring, the teacher said,
“You must be in the fourth grade?”
HE REPLIED: “No, ma’am, but I am riding Silver Arrow in the 7th today.”
Sorry, no joke…however I just thought I’d point out the animal in your photo is a caribou, not an elk 🙂
Well in that case, the people at the stock photography site have some explaining to do.
And I hope you’ll circle back, Sharon, and enlighten us as to how one tells the difference!
I swear, Michael, we must have some sort of weird, cosmic mental thing going on. You sent me an e-mail a couple of months ago actually on my birthday asking me if I wanted a birthday card, and just this very day — as in TODAY — I published my first article on LinkedIn!
I’ve also just started up a newsletter (no official subscribers yet, but I’ll get there. I hope.), so I’m putting myself out there. And yes, it’s bloody scary! What if I’m barking totally up the wrong tree? What if everybody hates what I write or thinks I’m an idiot, or worse, what if nobody ever reads it at all? *facepalm*
Thanks for (weirdly timely) words of encouragement!
Sorry, I’m crap at jokes! Insults and sarcasm, yes; jokes, not so much. 😉
In fact, Gina, I am standing outside your house at this very moment (I’m very dedicated to my newsletter readers).
And congrats on all the publishing you’ve got planned. It’s fun (and business-generating).
Two peanuts were out for a late night walk. One was a salted.
That really hurts.
Skeleton walks into a bar and says, “Bartender, get me a beer and a mop!”
Since I have an ecommerce site, I know if I write and send, I’ll get a bump in orders. If I don’t, I won’t. That’s motivating.
At least monthly.
I like all three, Ann!
1. A grasshopper walks into a bar. The bartender says, “Hey, we’ve got a drink named after you!” The grasshopper says, “You’ve got a drink named Doug?”
2. I try to remind myself that I’m not trying to win some sort of journalism award, I’m just trying to communicate clearly.
3. Tweak, edit, write daily.
I like the writing daily part in particular. We just had Colleen Wainwright as a guest in the Blue Penguin Content Club (http://bluepenguincontentclub.com/) and she talked about that very topic!
You’re correct, Michael, humour is a risky thing. And for 2 reasons.
You tell a blonde woman joke…. you’re a hero if I’m a man or a non-blonde woman. You’re a moron if I’m a blonde; female or male.
You tell an Irish drunk joke … you’re a hero if I’m not Irish and a moron if I’m Irish or from Irish descent.
You tell a hunting/ senseless killing joke … you’re a hero if I’m desensitised to gun violence and focus on the tag line and a moron if I’m still sensitive to the needless loss of life.
The risk is that offence is “always taken”… never given …. it’s an outcome, not an input, even when it’s obvious that you tell a joke in good faith.
Second, the remainder of your newsletter may have been gold… just what I needed to be more successful ….. but after reading
“One of the hunters calmly raises his rifle and shoots him.” I really didn’t take anything in.
It seems, these days, the safest humour is the self-depreciating kind … the balding, middle-age, middle class, father-of-three, husband-to-one kind that you use as the core of your brand.
If I were you, I stick with that.
Mark, Thanks for writing. And that’s a great point about the risk in telling a joke, or writing a newsletter, or saying anything. Some people – often people we like and want to think well of us – disagree (or worse).
But I’m going to respectfully disagree with you on what that suggests. Because while it’s certainly safer to stick to words and jokes that nobody will ever take offense to, my rule for writing and speaking in a business context is to be whoever you really are. You’ll lose some people along the way, but you’ll strengthen your connection with the people who see eye to eye. To me, that’s what marketing is all about.
What do you think?
1. What’s brown and sticky? A stick.
2. No fear. Be different or be dead. For instance we’re a coffee company and are upfront about the fact that we are not Fairtrade/Rain Forest Alliance/ UTZ / etc., friendly. Because they are a joke. Toadys for big corporations. We challenge our customers to do their research and decide for themselves. Feeling good about hypocrisy isn’t cool.
3. We create content regularly. More of the same in 2017. I find it good to tweet out and email your list about new posts. Website visits go way up when you do this and Google ranks you higher.
Now that I’ve answered your questions please answer one of mine. You offer your newsletter in various formats — click and listen, a pod cast, via iTunes, or go old school and actually read the damn thing. I’m old so I prefer reading (I find my mind wanders to different things when listening unless there is a visual to look at). What’s the breakdown between the various ways your ‘readers’ can consume your newsletter? Which type of media wins, places, and shows?
William! I like your joke because I’m sure it will stick with me (sorry).
And I really like your #2 answer as well.
In terms of the different formats, the vast majority of people just read it. Second place is the click to listen, third (I’m guessing since they don’t provide stats) is iTunes and last (guessing again) is the straight up podcast. What I’ve found, though, is that the people who prefer listening over reading, while a minority, REALLY prefer it. It adds about 45 minutes to the publishing process and so it feels like a worthwhile option for me to provide. That said, I always encourage people to get their newsletter working smoothly before adding on these additional options.
1. (My dad told me this joke, so I’ll try to retell it accurately, using an elk). – A female elk was looking in the mirror and asked her elk husband who wasn’t paying close attention. “Honey, I don’t think my eyes work to well, I think this mirror makes me look fat…” the husband replies back without hesitation, “Honey, your eyes see perfectly”….
..the funeral will be on January 2nd.
2. I’m going to hit the send button without fear this year, cause I want a certain. way of life I’m so careful to look over spelling errors, and make proper attachments which is good. But sometimes I waste time looking for the things thay aren’t there. That is my self doubt telling me I can do it. I can do it this year! Watch me!
3. I’m going to making a series of cartoon creations for my blog, because I think it will really resonate on a funny note for my local city. I think this will help me break into the blog side of things, and hopefully help me to share my passion for design as well. Keep my accountable Michael, please!
Hit that send button, Lowell!
My husband went on his annual elk hunting trip out West in December and reported they did not see a SINGLE elk, only deer and cattle. However, none of them waved their arms and yelled “I am not an elk”. I thought your joke was hilarious and I know he will too.
So you mean all the elk they saw were married??
Great elk story. I actually let the gray matter ponder it for a minute, then burst out laughing.
If you don’t read the cartoon ‘pearls before swine’ I think you would really enjoy it. It’s an important part of my morning routine.
My polar bear joke. Little polar bear goes to his daddy polar bear and says ‘daddy, am I REALLY a polar bear?’ Daddy replies ‘of course you are son, living up here in the north pole with us, your white furry coat and your cute polar bear ears, of course you are son. Why do you ask?’ “Because I’m frikkin freezing!”
I like your comment about being yourself. At one point in my life I was giving on-line technical instruction to HR managers and staff on how to use an automation S/W in the HR department. (The whole concept wasn’t too popular ‘you can’t automate HR!’ was a common remark)
We lived and died by a 16 question post class evaluation. I managed to maintain one of the highest quality scores of the team and would often get comments like ‘Peter was very funny and made a five hour class enjoyable’ but occasionally I would get schating reviews from people who didn’t think I was in the least bit funny.
But I kept on being me and kept on saying things that struck me as funny. It was the only person I knew who to be and not slip up at it.
We are in the middle of launching another business and a newsletter will be our lifeline to our clients.
I like your joke – and I like your story about your class even more. I think of authenticity as a competitive advantage. We all have access to it, but so many people are afraid to use it. Glad it worked so well for you.
Thanks Michael. Your enthusiasm for newsletters has been the adrenaline shot I needed to believe in this approach to a very powerful method of being on a clients radar.
One of the best newsletters I have read (okay I am a little behind…it is February 7, 2017. Keeping it in my inspirations folder for when I get lazy…NO joke!