The biggest mistake people make writing and sharing in public is taking a checklist or formula approach. If you browse LinkedIn for more than three minutes, you can find a good example rather quickly like this IBM post:


Typically the company had a meeting that probably went like this:

“we need a social media presence”

“great, let’s join LinkedIn”

“now what do we write about?”

“digital transformation seems to be hot”

Next, the team leaves the meeting and spends an ungodly amount of time developing a very below average report. This is typically done by interviewing internal “experts”, some external research and perhaps even a poll (usually an absurdly small sample size that would never help deduce anything).

How do I know this is true? I helped develop “thought leadership” at several companies. It always starts the same “we need to get out there on topic x.

Takeaway: Fitting into the box may work, but eventually either you will run out of boxes to fit into or you will fail to build any real connections with a community you care about.

Copying Corporate

The shocking thing is that many individuals, knowingly or not, take this same approach. They look at what other individuals who have a lot of clicks post and then assume that the format of those posts is what has made them successful.

This is a huge mistake.

Many of these “influencers” have lost their mojo. What once was a unique perspective, a different writing style or a cause of which they rallied a lot of people has now evolved into them following the formula of everyone else. 

“I need to write more blog posts or do more social media posts” on their end turns into a completely passive reader or consumer on the other end.

I have seen a couple people with large followings post wisdom nuggets such as:

“Betting on yourself has the best odds of paying off”

What’s the problem with this? Nothing. In fact, these people typically have done the long hard work of building a following and these simple questions can help start a discussion within those pre-build communities.

However, thinking you should copy this because of the enormous number of likes is a mistake.

Takeaway: What appears to work for other people likely will not work for you. You are missing the enormous risks at the beginning of that person’s journey that inspired people to follow them. If you are looking for any clues, e-mail those people and ask what the first piece is they wrote that broke through.

Constant Reinvention & Experiments

At its best, using social media should be experimental, seeing whats fun for you and the best way to connect with people that care about your ideas.

One person who gets all this is James Altucher. Why? He has been writing for a long time and keeps plugging away. His formula is uniquely his own formula and you know from the vulnerability of his posts that he keeps pushing himself and is always trying to reinvent himself. 

Only James Altucher can write a James Altucher post.

This is the key to writing, connecting and putting your ideas out into the world. You need to write things that only you could write. You can copy some of the structure and format of posts (some tips of what works here), but there needs to be some element of originality that ties it to you.

My most read pieces of writing were both personal. One a battle with chronic illness was a two-year journey that was uniquely mine. The second was longform piece on the six elements of organizations that undermine human performance. This was something that churned around in my mind for about 15 years as I build a career focused on talent, organizational development and performance.

Takeaway: What are the stories that only you can tell? THAT is what people want to hear from you. Start there and worry about the formulas later.

33k+ Sold! (Top 1% Book) The Pathless Path is Paul's book about walking away from a "perfect" job with a promising future and starting over again. Through painstaking experiments, living in different countries, and a deep dive into the history of our work beliefs, Paul pieces together a set of ideas and principles that guide him from unfulfilled and burned out to what he calls "the pathless path" - a new story for thinking about work in our lives. Learn More & Buy The Book Here

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