One-Armed Bandit

For the past two weeks, I’ve had my arm in a sling. That’s because a week ago Thursday, I had rotator cuff surgery on my right shoulder.

Apparently, this is pretty significant stuff, and so for the month or two leading up to the event, I was focused on the surgery itself.

Fortunately, all went well. But, as I soon learned, the procedure, at least from the patient’s perspective, is not the hard part – all I had to do was show up on time and go to sleep (insert your own Congress joke here).

No, the hard part has been figuring out all the ins and outs of what it takes to recover.

It began with the pain management of the first few days. Advil every four hours, Tylenol and Oxycontin every six hours, antibiotic four times a day, ice on and off every 30 minutes. We needed a spreadsheet (thanks for the suggestion, Dianne!) just to keep track.

Then there was the gear. A shoulder brace with clips, straps, and a ton of Velcro. Rechargeable calf compression sleeves to prevent blood clots. An inflatable ice pack, special socks, and a mountain of pillows to help with sleeping.

Finally, I’ve had to figure out how to get through each day with just one arm. How to use a keyboard, how to make coffee, how to wear a coat, how to drink beer with my left hand (hey, I’m not a monk over here).

So here’s my question for you: Am I now an expert in post-shoulder surgery recovery?

I hope you said no, because I am not.

But, the Me of today knows WAY more on this topic than the Me of two weeks ago.

So much so, that I would absolutely have paid close attention – if not paid actual money – to receive any tips, tricks, insights, or recommendations that the Me of today might have shared on the day I got home from the hospital.

What Do You Know That Would Be Useful?

I spend a lot of time helping clients figure out what topics to cover when developing content – mostly newsletters, sometimes presentations, courses, or webinars.

Like you, these people know a lot about their respective areas of expertise. Most have several decades of experience doing whatever it is they do.

So when it comes to choosing potential topics, I always start with the same question: What do you know that a person who looks like one of your preferred clients would also benefit from knowing/understanding?
More specifically…

#1. It’s got to be simple.

I don’t really care why my shoulder brace is designed the way it is or why blood clots are an area of concern post-surgery. I have no medical training or interest; I just want someone to help me get through the first few weeks at home.

So don’t aim so high in creating content. You are not talking to your industry peers … you are talking to people who just want the basics of whatever it is you do, so that they can live their lives or do their jobs better. It’s “Your Expertise 101” – not PhD-level stuff.

#2. Talk to your preferred clients.

Shoulder surgery is different than other types of surgeries. Yes, there are overlaps in terms of recovery. But my value to a newly-surgeried (not a real word) person drops off significantly if I start offering advice to people who have had any kind of surgery.

Likewise, you need to isolate and narrow to whom you are speaking. “Women aged 40-60;” “small to midsize companies;” “anybody whose money is green” … these are fine as starting points, but too broad for you to figure out what to write about and how to write it.

So think about what your perfect client looks like. Company size, industry, level of experience, common problems, personality, age, current understanding of your area of expertise.

If you want more of these people as clients, you need to be very specific
about who* you are talking to. That will make it easier for you to uncover relevant topics – i.e., topics that matter to them – generating more interest as a result.

*”Whom,” if you are talking to English majors.

#3. Stop waiting.

One thing that keeps people from creating and sharing content is a fear/belief that they “don’t know enough.”

Look, I’ve only been in the shoulder surgery business for two weeks and I could already be enormously helpful to someone who just started down this path. You know way more than that regarding your own work.

You don’t need to be the best on Earth – your readers, listeners, followers, and clients always arrive at square one. And they don’t go much further; they have other things to worry about. That’s why they hire you.

Share what you know and do your best to move past whatever imposter syndrome nonsense you have hanging around. We are all worried and occasionally faking it. It’s just that those of us who have been doing it for a while have gotten pretty good at hiding it.

See you next time. Until then, please send more beer.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Have you ever had your arm in a sling?
  2. Which hand do you drink beer with? Extra credit if you use a glass.
  3. Whom is your preferred client?

Share your answers below…

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19 thoughts on “One-Armed Bandit

  1. Jess

    1. Yes!! I injured my left shoulder in mid-September and had a sling for about 5 weeks. It’s not completely healed yet, so I had an MRI yesterday, and am awaiting results – hoping my rotator cuff isn’t torn. While I don’t understand your situation completely, I have a slight idea of what the past few weeks have been like for you, Michael. Hope your recovery is quicker than you expect!
    2. Neither – I don’t like beer!
    3. Art educators. Still pretty broad, but I’m not a solo professional. Still love your newsletter though!

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Hope things go well. I would not have done it were it not for a complete tendon tear and the doc telling me that if I didn’t fix it, by the time I was 70 I wouldn’t be able to lift my arm above my head!

  2. Michelle Morris, CFP®, EA

    Great newsletter Michael! Hope recovery is proceeding.

    I completely agree that the newsletter needs to be simple. I aim for that, and yet frequently a professional colleague responds with an “I didn’t know that”. Then I feel super smart until an hour later when I learn something new from a professional colleague! Keep on learning.

    1. No, thankfully.
    2. I don’t drink beer but I am strongly left-handed and can’t imagine being without my dominant arm.
    3. Single women, in or nearing retirement, who need help making sense of their money and their taxes!

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Yep. Your niche is one i cite often! And your newsletter is always at the right level of difficulty!

  3. Terry Matlen

    So sorry to hear of your injury, surgery, and post-surgery nightmares, Michael. I hear that it is a VERY tough surgery to recover from. Heal quickly!

    1. Last summer, I fell (hard) while jogging, breaking both elbows, one wrist, and as a bonus, hit my head, causing a gorgeous black/blue pattern over and under one eye. The ER put me in two- yes two- slings, one cast, and who knows what else. I was papoossed, with both arms crisscrossed across my chest. You can imagine what I was thinking: how will I be able to (insert one million things here). Luckily, my husband is an orthopedic surgeon so when we got home, he cut off the cast and tweaked the slings so I could at least feed myself, among other things. I healed, thankfully, and was able to avoid surgery. Tip: did your surgeon suggest exercises once you’ve healed? Or PT? That makes all the difference.

    2. Not a beer drinker but I wish I was back then.

    3. I help women with ADHD.

      1. Terry Matlen

        Well…I’m the slowest jogger on earth. I didn’t see it coming- going my merry way then boom- face on the cement. Funny thing is- my daughter is an atty. So yea, nice having both in the family!

  4. Albert Kaufman

    Have you ever had your arm in a sling? – Yes, Jr. High Bball accident
    Which hand do you drink beer with? Extra credit if you use a glass. – I’m not that big a beer drinker. I’m more of a cannabis guy. This brings me to mention: hey, instead of oxy, you might want to try some edibles.
    Who is your preferred client? – lately, I’ve been working with politicians, music festivals, and people who are doing good work in the world.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Pain is pretty severe for a few days so I needed the real stuff. But long off of it. After watching Dopesick, I was very cautious!

  5. Ed Lawrence

    Back in 2013 I had (left) shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum So, yes, I’ve experienced what you are going through. While the surgery got rid of the pain, I lost strength the shoulder strength. I can’t throw overhand; I can only manage a pounds with certain exercises. And I am perpetually at risk of a frozen shoulder.

    Because of that shoulder surgery, I learned to do a lot of things with my right hand, including eating or drinking. I can drink beer (glass or can) with either hand. I prefer my beer in a frosty mug that I keep in the freezer.

    My preferred client is someone who is patient enough to learn how to fish, instead of demanding a bunch a fish.

  6. Bonnie Fanning

    I believe monks drink beer? That’s a whole thing, right?

    Hey, thanks for this article. It hit me at *just* the right time as I sit down today and try to decide what I’ll teach the world. My niche being only people whose money is green *on one side.*

  7. Brenda Stewart

    Hi Michael,
    Yes, I broke my shoulder in 21 and was in a sling for 6 weeks, no surgery, though! Tough to do stuff with one hand. I’m recently recovered from foot surgery and could not bear ANY weight for 6 weeks; we had a spreadsheet, too!
    The worst part of surgery is resting after and giving yourself time to heal! Hang in there. I know it’s difficult…

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Hello Brenda! And thanks. I’m happy to say that article you just saw on LinkedIn was reprinted from last October so I am in good shape. Just got the greenlight from the surgeon to return to basketball a week from tomorrow (7 months!), so I’m very glad to be on this side of things!

  8. Gregory Fisher

    Hey Michael,

    1.) We lived in a mobile home when I was just a kid. One day I walked out the front door to get my father, forgetting that the staircase was now at the home’s back door. I woke up, face down on the concrete landing with my arm broken at the elbow.

    This happened in the 1970s. I needed surgery to set the elbow. I was in a cast for weeks. The doctors weren’t certain I’d regain the use of my arm. Luckily, it was my left arm and I’m right-handed so I was able to continue reading my way through a collection of Jules Verne books.

    2.) I drink beer with my right hand. Glasses are for wimps.

    3.) I’ve just started on my path so no clients yet.

    I have an Oxycontin story I could tell. It was a brief flirtation but man was it intense.

  9. Charlie

    Tore my rotator cuff skiing, which was sorta my own fault due to bad posture. Too much time on the computer and my shoulders were in front of my ears so when I took a small fall skiing, rip…

    My tips for a fast recovery,
    – The shoulder ice cuff / machine helps a lot
    – Exercising as much as possible with the other parts of your body speeds healing.
    – Once I was free of the sling, Reiki helped my muscles relax
    And my orthopedist was stunned at how quickly I recovered.

    Which lead me to the next step…
    Working with a trainer to get in shaped and prevent injury, which is what I should have done in the first place.


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