Our guest today: Mark McGuinness
Mark McGuinness is an award-winning poet who has been coaching creative professionals since 1996. He helps talented, inspiring and ambitious creative professionals to fulfill their potential – creatively, personally, professionally and financially. He is the host of The 21st Century Creative podcast. His latest book is 21 Insights for 21st Century Creatives.
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Feisworld podcast helps independent creators live their creative and financial freedom. I’m your host, Fei Wu, and I’ll be taking you through a series of interviews with creators from around the world who are living life on their own terms. Each episode is packed with tactics, nuggets you can implement origin stories to make listening productive and enjoyable. We’re not only focused on the more aspirational stories, but relatable ones as well. We also have none interview based miniseries releasing throughout the year to help Deep dove into topics such as freelancing, marketing, even indie filmmaking that would benefit creators like you.
Show notes, links and ways to connect with the guests are available on Feisworld.com. Now onto the show. Hi there, this is Fei Wu from Feisworld Media. I have been embracing these little chats before the beginning of my longer form interview format episodes, and I feel like this is my one and only opportunity to connect with you no matter where you are in the world. Believe it or not, our listeners come from over 60 countries worldwide. And to me that is just unbelievable.
So I don’t know who you are, but if you’re thinking about getting your voice, getting your message out there, podcasting is a great idea. So is producing videos on YouTube. I know many of us, most of us have preferences for one way or the other where maybe even both. So definitely give it a shot. And many of you guys who are listening to this are brand new to the show. And that’s something I never really anticipated.
There are about 95 percent of the people who are listening to my podcast for the first time, at least according to the analytics that I can get my hands on. So to me, that is very, very special. So I just want to give you a virtual hug. I hope you can feel that. And so today. Well, I want to welcome a very special guest. His name is Mark McGuinness. Mark is from London in England.
I’m inviting Mark to talk about how to fulfill your potential creatively, personally, professionally and financially. And the reason why I think this type of conversation, conversation, especially the authentic and real ones with, you know, tips and tricks and reflections and struggles are just so important because I don’t think there are enough conversations like this out there floating in the market yet. What you get instead are these sort of two minute, five minute spiel. And, you know, whatever you see on social media and people counting money, people talking about how you can make your seven figures in a month.
I mean, it sounds so silly yet, you know, so many of us kind of just buy into that message and believe in or rather just read it, consume it, instead of listening to a real conversation of how these things work, how people how people fail and how they were able to get up again. And you’ll notice that I don’t really edit these intros as much anymore, or I should say a my producer. German It’s a decision that I feel like it’s kind of weird, right?
I’m recording this in my studio, but at the same time, I want to embrace imperfections. Perhaps I just I got a long way to go. I really do. I’m still learning and I stumble, stumble on my word, just like how I happened like two seconds ago. In a way, when I listen to Seth Godin recording Akimbo and he honestly says he records everything from scratch and he doesn’t do almost like very little editing and he doesn’t even have a script.
I don’t have a script right now, but he just sounds like seamless, perfect to me because he is a professional. He’s been doing this for a long time. But I want to show you guys that even for me, six years into doing this man, I sound really raw. I got a lot of work to do and my accent kicks in because English is my first language. And that comes through really clearly when it’s kind of unplanned, unscripted, and when I feel a little nervous or because it’s closer to midnight right now.
But hey, guys, this is what this conversation is about. It’s about honesty and connection and the ability of leaping forward, even when you fear that you might just fall through the cracks or nobody gives a whatever about what you have to say, but remember to say it anyway. So, so much love for this community. If you want to consider subscribing to this podcast. Awesome, because I got a lot of content coming your way. Some of my content is a livestream interview based and some of the other ones are, you know, personal reflections on lessons I’ve learned as a creative entrepreneur.
Last but not least, follow us on YouTube. I started producing video content religiously since September of twenty nineteen. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. So definitely welcome you to check it out. Without further ado, please welcome Mark McGuinness to the Feisworld podcast. Yeah, hey, everybody, this is Fei Wu from Feisworld Media and Feisworld podcast. So today, I have a very, very special guest, Mark McGuinness. Am I saying that correctly?
Mark, you are doing very well.
Thank you. Thank you. I was like as soon as I had to introduce you, I realized. I always confirm, I guess. Oh, thank you, Mark. I’m so glad you are. Here you are. You know, you’re to me, you’re a creative leader. You’re a poet. You’re a nonfiction writer. You’re good friends with one of my favorite people in the world. Join the pen. And I have so much to learn from you.
On top of that, you’re a creative coach. So for those of you guys out there, you know, writer, author, speaker, you know, poets and artists, I am so thrilled to be introducing this conversation to you. And I’ve already given Mark the permission to use me as a guinea pig as needed. And, you know, we’ll just get started and for us to for everybody to learn more about what Mark does and how he is able to help creative people to really push through at the end of the day.
Thank you. So lovely to be here.
So we started talking about Joanna and I didn’t realize that she lives right down the street from you. I think it’s just it’s wonderful. And there are so many. You mentioned earlier before we had recording, you said the the privilege of knowing and getting to know other creative folks really enhance your work and to be able to have that conversation. Could you maybe talk a little bit more about that?
Yeah, I think this is so important because, you know, the more creative and original your path, the fewer people like you that may are likely to be in wherever you grow up or maybe even where you live currently. And so the more important it is that you make an effort to find and hang out with people, you know, your kind of people. And, you know, that’s why I think you’re doing such a great job here with with the chauffeur, because you’re you’re connecting people like us up with each other.
Before the Internet came along, we were the only one in the village.
And I think it’s important, first of all, personally, because, you know, there’s nothing like having a conversation with somebody who totally gets you and has the same values, the same mindset, not even necessarily the same creative discipline. But there’s some kind of connection when you meet somebody who’s living the creative life that you instinctively know. And that’s part of the fun, I think is the people you meet along the way at least have fun, but also professionally, it’s important as well, because these are people who will bring you buoyancy, who will bring you encouragement, who will bring you feedback.
And also as well, you know, they’re going to help you raise your game because you see. Well, if so and so’s to think that then, you know, I guess, you know, and that’s amazing. And well, they’ve got two arms, two like me. It forces us all to show up at a higher level. So I think, you know, personally and professionally, it’s really important that you find your people let’s begin finding our people, your people.
It’s I feel like it’s a lesson learned for me later in life, you know, even though I remember growing up. And immediately you find your best friends, you invite kids to come over. I’m an only child, so I wouldn’t naturally go home. I have my brothers and sister right there waiting for me. So choosing friends who really, you know, I enjoy the company with and who really gets me was something that I learned earlier on.
But I feel like later on in life as a professional, I lost that a little bit. I became the person where, you know, who went to work and consulting and advertising assume that everybody around me, near me should naturally be my friends and we should think alike. And I didn’t I definitely find I found a really challenging because what I call relationship relationship by proximity, you know, wasn’t always by default or natural. Naturally, you know how people resonate with you, your your messaging.
But until I stepped outside of that, started my own company and joined Seth Godin Zolt NBA, all of a sudden I start to feel everything. You’re describing people from around the world all different, you know, origin, skin colors and belief system, but yet they’re making me a better person and challenging me the right way. Even at times I didn’t feel it felt uncomfortable almost. But then I really started to grow.
Mm hmm. Of course, the downside, as I was talking to John T. Unger about this one. He’s an amazing artist who does extraordinary things. And he said you have said, you know, the Internet is great because it means we get to to to meet up with people who, you know, we were always the odd one out, he says. And now we’ve got friends. He said, you only thing is, we’re not quite as unique and special.
You know, we weren’t, you know, so so the ego has to be diminished a little bit.
Which is not a bad thing.
So get into that a little bit more market because for example, I read your your your British and your highly educated. Right. There is I love somebody wrote this description, I think as an opening for your book, highly intellectual. And and yet, you know, right now your work is connecting you to a really big variety of people, like you said, and now people have more access to you than, say, they were able to 10, 20 years ago.
So what is the what is it like for you to vet the people you want to work with?
So is kind of just so I understand the question, is it about being accessible or not being accessible, being more accessible to you?
So it’s interesting. You mentioned the intellectual stuff, nobody intellectual. I mean, I did so about 15 years ago. I went from doing the Masters, which was where I discovered Seth Godin. I was studying creative and media enterprises. So it’s like a like an MBA for the creative industries. And in the marketing module, I discovered this guy called Seth Godin and he’s talking about blogging, which I’d never heard of before because my previous business was me in a telephone ringing people up and drumming up business, which was not an experience I wanted to to repeat.
And I read about Seth and he was saying, will you put your ideas out into the world via the Internet? And then people will find you and connect with you. And this was actually simultaneously really exciting and really scary because I’d gone from my academic text and, you know, your professor is going to go and look over it and say, so you say, well, I think this, but on the other hand, we need to take account of that.
And of course, so-and-so has said this. You hedge everything so that the professor can’t say you’re being too naive. And then I start blogging. And I was being mentored by a guy called Brian Clark who founded Cockeye Belgacom book dot com. And one thing Brian said to me one day, it was Mark come off the fence saying, what you think, put it out there. And that was quite liberating. And he said I said, yeah, but what about the idea?
There’s always another point of view. And he said, that’s what the comments are for. That’s what other blogs are for. You put your ideas out there and then we have a conversation. And actually that was very freeing and liberating and exciting and a little bit scary because you never quite know what’s going to come back. But overall, it’s been one of the best things I ever did was to actually, you know, come out of the library and put the ideas out into the world and put them at service of people and say, well, look, here’s something that could help.
You know what? When did you start blogging? I’m trying to calculate 15 years ago.
It was Valentine’s Day, 2006. And I do like to think that I took my wife out. We did something nice in the evening that I didn’t spend the whole day hunched over the blog. But I do remember it. It was that I look back one day and so blogging was kind of getting going then, but it wasn’t widely used as a business tool. And I came across Brian’s blog, copy blog dot com, and he was talking about how to use a blog to sell.
And that was kind of heretical in those days. You got a lot of flack for it. But I was kind of I was really curious about that. That was how I got that really helped me with my development about balancing putting stuff out there that’s going to be helpful, but also being mindful that there’s a business that I want it to be at the service of as well.
I love where you’re going with this. And because I started blogging right around 2014 when I started the podcast and it’s interesting, I always tell people back then people said there are so many podcasts. English is not even your first language. You’re a woman. Why would you want to start this? And it’s so everybody has a show already. And today people are like, oh my God, you’ve been podcast me six years. That’s incredible. So it’s I’m so glad I did it, no matter how it made me feel terrible.
Very excited at times and terrible at times. I’m just so glad I, I did and I put it out there and I’m super interested in exploring the sort of the money and financial side of things related to our creative work. And I know you have a lot to say about that. But before we get there, I must say that when I interview someone who is not American, myself included, you know, Joanna, you and and people from everywhere around the world, they they say that, you know what?
They this whole self promotion thing, marketing thing is kind of not a thing outside of the USA. Liza wasn’t clearly that way 10, 15, 20 years ago, whereas I feel like people outside of the U.S., most Americans to be very comfortable with self promotion is a part of their education, part of their upbringing. Did you ever feel that friction or discomfort when talking about your work? We’ve been promoting your work.
You’re kidding. I mean, I’m British, I’m introverted and I’m a poet. So, yes, absolutely. But the thing is, I kind of got this from Seth, is it if you think about it, is self promotion. I just feels icky and awkward. But what I got from Seth was it’s about. Sharing, it’s about putting something out into the world and, you know, when I’m working with a client and they go on, I don’t like self promotion, I say great just to meet the self.
But if you’re going to promote promote the work, promote the idea, promote the cause or the purpose or, you know, really drill down into the big why you’re doing this and if you’re feeling uncomfortable, is getting in the way of you doing your work and getting your message out, then get out the way, you know, because sometimes we have to feel uncomfortable and sometimes we have to you know, I know there will be people each time I put something out thinking, oh, there he goes again, you know, does he never shut up?
You know? But you’ve kind of got to just make your peace with that. Some whatever you do, somebody will think ill of you, you know, if you reach enough people, you know, statistically, but you’ve got to be just focused on what is the purpose. And I’m going to serve that purpose. And if that means putting my latest book or my latest idea or my latest product or whatever it is, I think then go and do that because you know where you’re coming from.
Hmm. When you mentioned statistically, that is so true. From what I learn about a YouTube channel within the past six months that went from I had 100 subscribers to now close to 9000. And some of the videos, you know, some of the videos still have 100 views and some of the videos have over one hundred and thirty thousand views. So the pattern I know to me, I’ve never had this kind of visibility before, to be honest. Even with a documentary on Amazon, you don’t get that until, like you said, Mark, creating something of value, really helping people when it’s urgent and important, such as creating tutorials for Zoom.
And what I learned is videos with 51 reviews. Either there’s no comment at all, so there’s no feedback or as the video content becomes a little more popular, you get a couple of those. Good job, Gray. Thanks for doing this. And I like to see those. And then if you look at my 130000 viewer video. Wow. Like that is all kinds of feedback is rushing in from great. You never shut up. Who knows the beat.
And you know or so funny in their comments spams like I need a girlfriend. I’m like, oh, OK. You know, all kinds of comments were rushed, will rush in. And you know, one thing you mentioned, Seth Godin, is like, we’ll have the tendency to read the negative feedback sometimes. Like how how much? He says, how much can we learn from these one star reviews. So in in your opinion, Mark, when working with your client, how do we balance navigating different sorts of feedback and not get too bogged down on the negative ones?
I think a lot of it is, is what you’ve just said, you know, you look at statistically, the more visible you are, the more accessible you’re going to be to somebody who doesn’t like what you’re doing. And, you know, we’re hard wired to be more sensitive to negative criticism. I think there was an evolutionary psychologist said, you know, we’re descended from people who paid a lot of attention when there was a rustling noise in the bushes because the people who thought, that’s probably all right, they’re not around anymore, you know, they didn’t pass on their genes.
So, you know, we are hypersensitive by nature and of course, those of us of the artistic persuasion, we have that even more. But and part of it is just accepting, you know, something, it’s going to hurt sometimes because if it doesn’t hurt, that means you didn’t really put your heart into it. Mm hmm. And, you know, when people say, oh, don’t take it personally and you put your work out, people don’t like it.
Well, I mean, they’re generally not artists. Because we put our heart and soul into it now, so it’s on some level, it should be painful and it should be uncomfortable. But the good news is the more you do it, the more you do develop a thicker skin. And I think when you’re looking at feedback, one of the number one questions that comes up for me and I use a lot with clients is, well, who is this talking?
What is their perspective? And what criteria are they using? Because, you know, if it’s I don’t know, say a poem, for instance, and somebody says they don’t like my poem. Well, OK, that’s fine. But, you know, if that person is a poet who or an editor in the poetry world who really knows that stuff and I really respect and probably didn’t listen to that criticism a bit more sharply and say, well, what is it that you don’t like?
Certainly, if I’m talking to my mentor, Mimiko Bartee, and she says this isn’t working, I’m going to pay a lot of attention there. If it’s some random person on the Internet who’s just coming out with something insulting, you know, really? Why, why? Why would I listen to that voice? You know, that’s that’s that’s noise, you know? But I think what you’re looking for when it comes to feedback is what is the meaningful signal here?
You know, if you’ve got a product and you’re putting that out and this is your core audience and your people and you think they’re going to love it and they’re all saying a kind kind of man. And for this reason and it’s the same reason, then you want to pay attention to that. But sometimes you will go out and do some kind of promotion and it’s the wrong people or the wrong audience. And you’ve got to be alert to that rather than the the feedback.
So it’s really sharpening up. T.S. Eliot has this phrase to criticize the critic, which is kind of, you know, you’re turning your own critical faculty on that source of feedback and saying, well, who is this and what what is their judgment based on? And do I agree with that? Mm.
I love how you broke it down. And I think even though, you know, I’ve spent 20 years in the U.S. and I notice when it comes to work life working for corporate America, let’s just say there are a lot of courses and conversations around how to deal with difficult conversations, how to deal with feedback. I must say that again through Sasko and of course and through talking to you just now, there are so many ways to dissect feedback. And specifically, I remember there was a session on how to give and how to receive feedback, and that was just super helpful to actually break it down and to really practice that, too.
I think as a creative person, there’s so much of me reading a book and realize, oh, that’s trivial, or that’s really apparent to accepting feedback and sitting down in conversations with people and understand where they’re coming from. And so that that is that is really helpful. One thing. Go ahead, Mark.
You know, I was going to say I really think, you know, the art of receiving feedback is something that we don’t hear enough about. And again, as creators, if we’re professionals, you know, we are it’s our job to find feedback and it’s our job to handle it gracefully and professionally. So particularly if you are in any kind of service industry and you’re getting feedback from a client or if you’re on a team and you get it from your leader, or indeed if you’re an entrepreneur, you’re getting feedback from your audience, then whether or not you agree or disagree, I think it’s important to listen and to show that you’re listening.
And very often you’re dealing with people who maybe don’t have your training and don’t have your skills and don’t have your ability to dissect and analyze. And they don’t necessarily know what they like. I don’t like that color, but if you can stop when you say to them, OK, this is important, I really want to understand your perspective. Even if you’re brisling and you want to defend, stop and ask questions. Well, what is it that you don’t like about it?
What were you expecting that it doesn’t have or what does it not have that you wanted? Or what is it about the you know, I don’t like the design. Well, OK, what about the design? Is it the shape? Is it the balanced? Is it the color is you know, and very often you’ll get it down to something very specific. That’s quite easy to fix. Mm hmm. Or they haven’t really understood why that’s important.
So you might say, well, would you like to know why I’ve done it that way? And if you genuinely listen to them, they’re more likely to give you a hearing and you’ve got the chance to come to that. So I think having that neutral space of just listening before you defend before or attack or or run away I think is so important. So I really know. Well, underline what you said about receiving feedback, this part.
You just nailed it, because the biggest number one feedback I got from graduating from Columbia was that once Seth Godin students kind of get this first into the real world after the program, everybody’s biggest struggles. We are no longer around people who are just like us, who don’t have the same training. We didn’t go through an MBA. And that is the biggest struggle, as you said, of, well, the conversations is lasting longer and feels. Less effective, what do we do?
I think it’s our patience and to in a way that we become kind of a coach in a way, you know, in our profession, in our personal lives to kind of break it down and to be a good listener, which definitely takes training for sure.
Well, apparently, even the Buddha struggles with this after he was enlightened. So the story goes that he’s enlightened and he sat under this tree and he said, you know, seeing the meaning of life and existence and so on and apparently first came into his mind was, well, there’s no way I can explain this. This cannot be taught. And then one of the gods came down and said, you know, oh, enlightened one, you know, could you do us a favor and go out there and have a go at explaining it?
So he goes, all right, well, I’ll give it a go. And then he went he went back to the I think it was the day garden where his friends were hanging out and they said, Oh, it’s Siddartha, I haven’t seen you for a while. And there was kind of there’s something that’s something different about you, isn’t you? Look, it’s a new haircut or, you know, what is it? And he said, I can’t tell exactly what it is.
In essence, he said, I am the enlightened one. And that was his first sermon. And it was complete failure because they all looked him. So what are you kidding? And so he had to learn different ways to teach and get his idea across. So I often think, you know, if I don’t quite get my message across first time, then, you know, we’ve all got to start somewhere included. And this was literally after he was enlightened.
So if even enlightened beings have a truck, have an issue with this, I think maybe we can be a little forgiving of ourselves. Hmm. I’m creative at finding new ways of getting the message across.
Mm hmm. And I have a little bit of a pivot here because we talk about how to be creative. But I also love the fact that you really step into the financial side of things. You’re really comfortable talking about money with your clients in your book on on podcasts in general. And it’s can be a hard thing. And being enlightened and being connected and being more at peace with yourself is one thing. And then, you know, then we step into the real world.
I love the example. I cracked up a few times listening to one of your podcasts, which you talk about where you’re feeling good about your work. Then you go meet your family and then somebody start naming, oh, you know, Uncle So-and-so, Auntie so and so. You know, they’re doing real, real well. They have a company credit card. They’re making six or multi, six figures. What is that you’re doing and how much are you getting paid?
Like, how could people deal with that situation during holidays coming up?
Well, again, this is this is looking this is partly what we were saying earlier on about keep your friends close. You know, don’t take professional judgments from people who don’t understand your profession. And also, the thing about criticism is, you know, where’s this person coming from? A lot of the time that coming from concern, you know what? What are you doing with your life? Are you OK? Shouldn’t you be a bit more like Cousin Bill because he’s got his stuff together?
And one of the things I say a lot to clients and I put it in the book and on the podcast is Forget the Career Ladder, because there’s no career ladder for people like us. We don’t have the corner office and the fancy title and, you know, the premium parking space and all of that instead of the career ladder focus on creating assets. And I’m using that in a specific way. So, you know, traditionally the idea of assets is something like a company or a stock portfolio that you might buy or, you know, a property that you can generate rent from.
And the idea of the asset is you own it and it will generate ongoing value for you going forward. And as creatives, the amazing thing is we can create our own assets out of thin air. You know, we can create artworks. We can create products, we can create services. We can create companies. There’s intellectual property in all of those things. And they help to build our reputation, our brand. If we’re using American speak, then and because of that, everything gets easier.
You know, if you’re Neil Gaiman or your Stephen King or Kate Bush. Then. Everybody wants to work with you. Everybody knows who you are, if you want to do stuff because of your track record, because of your intellectual property, because of your reputation, that opens doors. Mm hmm. And so the one thing I will say to creatives is if you want things to get easier, if you want more opportunity to come to you financially and otherwise, if you want to have the satisfaction of building and having a sense of progress, ask yourself what kind of assets?
Could I create that will help me become the person that I want to be to do the work that I want to do and to put that out into the world. So if you’re an author, then obviously it’s going to be books. If you are an entrepreneur, then there’s presumably some kind of product line. Regardless of whatever else you do, you probably need some kind of media presence. But you’ve got I mean, so for instance, fight your podcast.
Think back to before you started it, who had heard of you in the big wide world?
Right. And who was there telling you, you know, you should be doing this podcast if you have you deliver the next episode yet. Right at the beginning. Mm hmm. It’s just you, right? Mm hmm. Yeah. So you you created it. And I bet it wasn’t easy. And I bet there were people around you who didn’t get it. And I bet there were days when you thought, what am I doing?
Is this just shouting into a void, crying and. Yeah, no, it’s it’s a huge asset. You’ve got an audience that you are serving. You have got people who know who you are and value that and value your wisdom. You have got, um, I’m guessing, a wonderful network from all the guests and the people you’ve met through the show. And whatever you want to do next, the show is going to make it easier, right?
Everything. It just flows. Right. And I know, Mark, you talk about energy, you talk about energy. And it just I think your we talk about my ass and my documentary, but like you said, it’s just part of the phase world assets and it creates so much synergy and energy that just flows. And on days where I’m thinking, well, I don’t need to do anything and it just flows, the doors will open. And it’s just something I never saw coming.
But I want to add one more thing, which is so many people come to me right now in 2020 and also twenty nineteen to say, say, how many Twitter followers, how many Instagram followers do I need before I start my show? And first of all, I, I want to laugh, but I, I try very hard not to. You don’t need anything. You don’t need social proof. You don’t need your parents, your loved ones permission to do this.
You don’t need any listeners, you just do it. You build this thing and people will come or not. But you got to start somewhere like that’s always the first question. People get stock to say, I am nobody, nobody knows me. Why should I start a podcast?
And that’s the hardest place to start from, but also the most exciting. Because the other thing about the podcast, for instance, is it wasn’t necessary. Yeah. You the only person who decided it needed to be made was you. Yeah. And you made it because it’s something you wanted to make and you made it with love and dedication and that’s what’s grown in it. And I’m guessing that gives you a sense of autonomy. Freedom fulfillment that you would never have got if someone had commissioned it, so if if you’re doing it to fulfill a boss or a client or a professor’s assignment or commission.
Mm hmm. And this is the you know, the other thing, you know, the externally, it’s good for your career or good for your business to have, I don’t know, a podcast or books or product range or successful company or whatever. Mm hmm. But internally, it gives you that sense of freedom and fulfillment. That really is why we become creatives in the first place. Mm hmm. You know, this is the bit that cousin in Georgia Thanksgiving doesn’t quite get is, yeah, we’re doing this because it’s that there’s an inner compulsion and an inner freedom.
And the lovely thing is, you know, the first. Your first attempt may well not work out. I mean, my first year of blogging, I was floundering and I didn’t really I wasn’t really getting traction, but I was convinced I was going to figure it out somehow. And eventually I did. But. Over time, that learning compounded and so what I learned from writing that blog helped me launch a podcast, helped me launch books, helped me.
My writing and thinking got a lot clearer just through that process of having to explain stuff to an audience, noticing when they didn’t get it and then noticing when they did and kind of calibrating from there. So even if your first book isn’t a bestseller, for instance, you learn so much from doing that. And the most important thing you learn is that you can create something out of nothing. Mm hmm. And you’ve got that ability that so many and so many people will be that to say, oh, isn’t it amazing?
You wrote a book and nobody, you know, they’re all there at the finish line, which is as it should be, but they’re never there when you’re starting out. So so, yeah, if if you’re in that place and you’re feeling unsure, you’re feeling scared, you think maybe I’m too late, maybe everyone’s already doing this or done this, just relish that feeling that this this is the point where you start to create your own freedom, creating your own freedom.
I wish I actually gave this life during this time. I have to change that. But the the creating the freedom, as you mentioned, to not really like separating us as creatives to people who we enjoy climbing the corporate ladder, the ladder, by the way, I knew it wasn’t for me since I was about 22, 23. It was so clear that that wasn’t for me, even though I was on a trajectory, you know, as a younger person where even some family and friends thought they want that corner office, maybe I’m like, no, no, I have zero interest.
But in terms of how I can carry my own journey, I’m I was really scared. I knew that’s precisely what I needed almost as a survival instinct that I wouldn’t last in in corporate America for much longer. So I just felt like the clock was ticking, that I better figure this out. So but I love something you said, Mark, also in your book, you know, you don’t get paid for suffering and working hard. And it’s it’s it puts a smile on my face that all the hard work that put into podcasting work on your book, just because you suffered, you worked hard.
You dance with fear, embrace your emotional labor. No, people are not going to give you even a penny or a dollar for it. So, you know, what was it like for you going from blogging and seeing it not work out to, you know, wow, this can actually be an opportunity. What was that journey like for you?
It was it was exciting and also uncomfortable because there was a kind of a mismatch in my reality, because in my head this was going to be a success. And I was reading blogs and I was reading books and seeing people who were out there who are being successful at it. So one of my early inspirations was seeing Steve Havoline, his blog, and it had the headline, the tagline, Personal Development for Smart People. And I remember thinking and it was amazing, he was just writing all this stuff about articles about productivity and waking up early and personal development and just putting out on the Internet.
And I thought, well, I could do personal development for creative people. Mm hmm. And yet so I was on the one hand, that was Brave New World. But on the other hand, like people like you. Sure you want to spend all that time on online because, you know, and my business partner, Bless was like, Mark, that’s valuable intellectual property. You should charge for that. Don’t just give it away online. And I was like, yeah, but Seth Godin said, you know, you leave the trail of breadcrumbs and it will come back.
And he said, I never heard of Seth Godin.
So many people haven’t.
And yet I was in that space. And also there were a lot of people like the commercial blogging in those days was really based on ad sense. And I realized that didn’t feel like that was a model that was going to work for me. I didn’t see many coaches blogging, and yet I thought I could figure this out. And one thing actually, I think I read this on Darren Rouse’s blog, pro blogger, where he said, because it’s easy to be intimidated with the people, with the big subscribers.
And in those days, blogs always used to have subscriber count on the homepage. And you go along and somebody’s got 10000 subscribers and appealing. Twenty three. But Darren said something. He said, look, don’t compare yourself where you are now to where some blogger is who’s been doing it for three years, five years or whatever. Compare this month’s stats with last month. And I did that and I looked and I saw well, you know, say 50 people read the blog last month.
Well, it’s 70 this month. And then it gets to 150. And, you know, and he said because it’s long and then you can draw like a curve out. You can extrapolate if that trend continues, look where you’ll be. And I did it. And it was like by the end of this year, I will have thousands of readers a month on the blog. And that seemed insane. But actually, it came true. And so I would say that’s just passed on from Darren is don’t compare where you are now with where other people are.
I’ve been doing it for a long time. Compare where you are now with where you were yesterday and then think about where you want to be tomorrow. And if you keep focus on that, then you have the satisfaction of incremental improvement. But over time that will compound and suddenly you’re in a completely different place.
Hmm. So how did you discover what will be the next piece of content to create and to, you know, to invite returning readers, viewers? And how did you build that creative ladder for yourself?
What I realized was. When I tried to be clever and insightful, like Seth Godin, I wasn’t very good at it. But when I shared something from my coaching practice, I mean, obviously not a detail of an individual client, but an idea that had worked with a few clients and I said, well, look, I’ve struggled with this. Clients have struggled with this. Maybe you have to. And I put that out there and I just thought, let’s just use it as a teaching tool.
Those were the posts that started to take off and get shared and comments. I don’t think there was much Twitter in those days, but gradually I realized, oh, if I just treat this as a coaching tool, not a marketing tool, then it will work. And really, since then I’ve thought and I got really got this from Brian Clark as well, don’t think of marketing as something that you have to do in order to promote the thing you really want to do.
Hmm. Just think of it as a way of extending your work into the world. So I’m a coach, so start coaching my readers on the blog if I’m an artist. Smarter on the blog. If you’re a singer, put saying if you’re, I don’t know, consultant of some time to share your expertize and then there’s no there’s no mismatch. It’s the same reality. And that, again, that’s going to be emotionally sustainable as well as more valuable because it’s the kind of thing that you naturally want to do and you’ll therefore keep doing it.
And going back to what you said earlier, there was also a tip I found really helpful is to pay attention to other people’s comments and opinions where you can then draw themes or a very kind of a maybe even a contradictory opinion somebody firmly believes in. And you can actually, you know, bring your you know, whether it’s research where your analysis to kind of break it down. I think just paying attention to the questions people are asking often is where I draw my next piece of inspiration or content from.
That can be really interesting as well. It’s almost like once you create the piece of ass, whether it’s a blog or YouTube video, whatever it may be, the content starts to write itself. It’s kind of it’s kind of it’s really interesting. I never I never thought about it that way. A lot of people ask me, like, do I have to write 10, 20 titles topics? Just dreamed that up every month. Well, you might have to do that at the beginning, but then it just I don’t know how you feel, but I feel like it just gets easier and easier.
Yeah, you kind of get into a groove as to where the good ideas come from. So what I think is you got a really great point that very often your audience will teach you what you want to know. So my first book, Resilience, was all about rejection and criticism, and that was based on feedback I got. So I teach a free course via email and I just teach creative thinking and productivity and presentation skills and the kind of fundamentals that you need for creative career.
And near the end, I thought because I had 25 lessons and then I thought, I guess I should do another. I should cover rejection and criticism because a lot of us have to deal with that as creative. And that turned out to be one of the most popular ones on in the whole course. So when I asked people for their feedback, they were saying, can you tell us more about this? Because that’s really important. And some of them were saying, you know, you could write a whole book about this and then the penny dropped.
I thought I could write a whole book about it. And I realized I suddenly I knew a lot. I had a lot to say about that subject because I dealt with it myself and had helped a lot of clients with it. But I’ve never really seen it as a discrete topic. So that was how my first book came to be written. So that’s one thing is feedback from the audience. And another thing that I think is so important to be curious is this resonates for you is what I call the art of overhearing yourself.
So when I find myself saying the same thing to coaching clients over and over after a while and I go, OK, I’m repeating this because there’s something in it. And, you know, by definition it is it’s the idea that’s useful that I keep repeating it. I should write this down. So that turns into a blog post or a podcast segment or a book chapter or something. Even poems I can get from this if I find myself telling the same anecdote to friends over, I think what is it about this or why am I keep telling this story?
And I’ve got a few poems of that. But because there’s something that’s cool, you know. So I would say, listen out for the thing that you keep repeating and ask yourself what’s what’s this? What am I actually subconsciously telling myself here? I mean, do you ever find that thing?
Yeah, I as you were saying this, I’m already reflecting on the things that I talk to you about in this past 40 minutes or so, especially the point where I explicitly said, oh, I’ve said this before, or, you know, I find it’s crazy and I use it example. And I repeat myself even to people want to start a podcast. You don’t need any ideas. I repeat these things all the time because I feel like I’m literally just a few steps ahead of, you know, some of the creatives who are just getting started.
I really, truly feel like I’m not Seth Godin. Clearly, I’m NASAA Cooper. I’m just a few steps ahead of them. So I remember not only I can see some of the mistakes they’re making, where some of the things that they’re really doing right. Even if they don’t themselves believe in that, it’s really it’s a really powerful one. One thing Mark brought up is, you know, one thing people struggle with and ask me is, OK, you deliver these email, you have, let’s say, automation, and you solve a problem over 25 emails and create leads.
And then there’s that point where you want to start selling something, whether it’s a paid course or paid consulting service, to help people really level up to, you know, really reach their new epiphany, so to speak. So how do you position yourself? How do you structure that message to start selling, to start charging? Because a lot of people like money, like I want to do this for free, but I also need to get paid.
It’s just that transition. How how do you how do you message that or how do you manage it?
I think it’s important to really be aware of where you’re coming from in relation to this. And I got this from my coach, Palek Torp, who is a real has a real masterful perspective on all of this. You know, he said if you’re coming from the place where. You’re fearful or you’re trying to take from your audience or your client or whoever it is, people pick that up and you you don’t feel authentic. But really what money represents in this context is commitment.
And the more they invest, the more they will get out of it. I mean, we’ve all had the experience of buying something and then thinking, well, I spent the money I should I should do the course or I should use the gym equipment or the membership or whatever it is. And I think in a very real sense, you can get what you pay for that. If something is free, then that’s fine. But you and you can get some value from it, but you get more value the more you invest.
And money is just one way of investing. So the way I look at it is, I think. And this isn’t necessarily for everybody, you know, I’m thinking of the person that this is for the first, that this will really help. And I want to speak from a place of feeling, what can I give that person? That will be even more valuable than the free stuff, and that will come with the price tag and, you know, how can I make sure that they get more value than they’re putting down in financial terms?
And then the email or whatever is tends to kind of write itself.
Mm hmm. It’s there are to a number of key points, but one is to actually give them more than what they paid for. That’s usually. Yeah. All right. Maybe it’s two thousand five thousand dollars to hire someone. But wow, that actually saved me so much time headache. And now I’m just operating on a different plane altogether. And also for me to to realize that for years I was offering my digital marketing advice for free to, you know, sometimes friends and family.
You know, it’s it’s it’s part of the game. And and I noticed that when you don’t charge, some folks will find it, you know. Well, not really take free advice very seriously. And they say they say thank you for your time, for your expertize, but they’re not executing there because it’s free. Whereas recently last year my hourly rate went from 200, 250 to this year, I said, you know, that’s it. People come find me from YouTube.
It’s three hundred dollars an hour. And I notice the drastic change of people taking notes. They’re paying attention. They’re watching the clock. They’re not rambling on their get. They get to the point really quickly.
And here’s here’s the thing. So what’s it like for you as somebody who loves to serve, who loves to help, who really wants to see her advice you’ve taken so that people benefit? What’s it like for you when you’re on a call with somebody and you see how they show up in at level?
They’re very engaged. They’re eager to learn. And and I it feels really good when. Right. Like developing empathy as a creative person to realize to to focus on what other people need you creative solutions. But for people to engage with you, I mean, the feedback exactly as you’ve written your book, Mark, like people thrive and then they they feel really energized at the end of the call and they’re taking actions. You get to see the results.
Granted, they might schedule another call if you like. I’m all broken again. I need more help. They’re not broken. Yeah, that that’s a feeling I get.
Yeah. And so what I’m hearing very strongly is the odor coming from that place of pure service that you you want to help. You want them to get to the benefit and the way you structure that relationship, including the money, including you have this access to me. This is what you need to do in order to get it actually helps them. And when you when that penny drops, when you realize, oh, it’s better for them if they pay, if they want X because they will get more out of X, then that there’s no conflict.
Mm hmm. Yeah, it’s very true. And they tell you, wow, that was half an hour for hundred fifty dollars. I spent the entire weekend not finding the solution. You just told me in thirty minutes and you know exactly just the time the frustration is worth so much more.
And if anybody’s listening to this and thinking, boy, I don’t know about that, I would invite you to think about a time when you paid some for. Hmm, ocean or the the deluxe version or the the bit more than you wanted to spend version, and you were delighted because you realized, oh, this is what first class service is really like. Oh, this is what a really great product is really like. Or this is what I do know, real diamonds.
Look, whatever it was. And you see that is the feeling that if you’re providing real quality that your customers, your clients can have.
Mm hmm. I can immediately think of a number of examples, and it’s so it stands out to for me as an immigrant, you know, for living in this country for 20 years, for the first number of years being in college, we didn’t spend money, not just myself. I know other students, international students who wouldn’t spend money on anything, really. It’s a lot of suffering, a lot of hard working stuff. And then until one day you become an entrepreneur, you said, I want to have that VIP access.
I want to sit next to those people. I want to spend three thousand dollars on Safeco, go in Zambia, even though I have all his books, you know, that I can read again and again for free. But once you get dropped in that community and being connected to the right people, wow, I don’t know what it’s worth. In fact, I’m going to use this is not even a metaphor. That’s a reality. During Saskatoons Al MBA, I got hired by two people that I was in the same classroom or cohort and two people hired me and I made you know, that was 10000 dollars.
A project came out during a four week MBA session and it continued from there since grad, you know, since graduation. And I’m talking to s like, that’s great. I’m glad to hear that because there’s a lot of emotions.
You probably gets that every day. Yeah. Yeah, exactly. I know if you’re watching the video, watch Fei Wu, because the way she’s talking, the way you’re talking about this, you can tell this was a transformative experience for you, that I’m picking up a level of confidence and clarity. That has stayed with you more than I can, you know, you play big when you join that group.
Yeah, yeah, it did. But the expectation I mean, I had high expectations, but even exceeded the expectation I had. I had this vague vision, kind of visual or like imagination about what could come out of that, you know, best worst case scenario. But it’s where you end up learning from. Those experiences are, you know, for example, people working with you. I don’t think they have the full picture going in. And it’s during working with you, coming out of that they realize, wow, this is something.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I mean, by definition, you can you know, this is one thing I will say to when I actually start work with a client. One thing I say was, well, look, you know, we’re going to work on all the goals that you’ve told me about that you came for. But the number one thing we’re going to work on is you. And this is the bit that it’s really hard to describe up front, because what I’m looking for is that this is going to be life changing for you as a person.
And by the time we’re finishing on some level, you’ve shifted your identity. You’ve you’ve stepped into a fuller version of yourself. You’ve discovered aspects of yourself that you haven’t expressed up to this point. And of course, that’s going to be a surprise.
You know, and I think this applies to any creative activity. I mean, if you’re painting a picture, you paint the picture to find out what it’s going to be like. Hmm. You know what? It’s if to write a book is to find out what I think about a subject on some level, because I don’t know, I got a vague idea of what it should be like. I’m going on a journey. There should be a surprise.
There should be a. You know, a moment of. Insight, enlightenment, whatever you want to call it, as well as plenty of frustration and dead ends along the way. Yeah, you know, this that that whole unpredictably and uncertainty of the creative life is what makes it scary, but also what makes it exciting. And you never get one without the other.
Hmm. Love it. Love it. Oh, that makes me think of Al like traveling. We were we went to London for a trip in late 2013. Everything was wonderful, but I did not figure out the Airbnb situation because the housing in England is very different than what we’re used to here. And I also just but that’s what I remember are the dead ends, the the things that didn’t work out so well alongside of all the wonderful sightseeing and friends we meet along the way.
It is you really you know, sometimes people say, oh, that was that was a wonderful trip, except and then people always do that. But that part of Airbnb, I was like, look, that completes a trip. You will never forget that journey because of it. So I love the market.
Is there any adventures? What makes it memorable?
Yeah, definitely is an adventure. Is there anything that I haven’t asked and you’re eager to share with my audience?
Nothing off the top, my head, is there anything that you would like to get from this conversation that you haven’t got? Yeah.
I love it and I have to tell you that one thing I was going to mention, you really answer a lot of my questions and thank you so much. I found myself hearing your daily routine on another podcast where you talk about how you balance your personal professional life. And there’s one bit that I loved so much is you mentioned the power of a standing desk and I have to. Do you are you working from a standing desk right now?
Oh, you’re standing? Yeah.
This this is my favorite toy. It goes up and down like that. And I usually podcast standing up because it’s easier. So, yeah, it’s a great way to get out of the you know, the hunched over the desk, which, you know, we’ve all done too much of, I think particularly as creative’s is, it’s huge. And I’m also I’m sitting in front of a standing desk right now. And and then I love how you said, you know, you press a button and it stands up and you said, no, that the desk stands up, but you have to be you have to stand up.
Yeah, it’s going to stand up.
Yeah. Some days it takes a button. Yeah.
Yeah. So thank you so much, Mark. I think there’s so much to explore in your work and I love your subtlety and and you know, not everything as you’ve heard jazz hands. But I every time this is Britain after all folks and then the same time I couldn’t help. I found myself wanting to listen to like an hour, an hour and a half, two episodes. You have a Joanna Pan. I just I couldn’t stop listening to it because right now on my podcast.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
So much to unpack. So thank you for that. This episode of the FDA’s rural podcast is brought to you by Fay’s World, LLC, our marketing service agency created for independent creators and businesses. We offer website development, video production, marketing, mentorship to people who want to tell better stories, level up and create a profitable brand phasor podcast team. Our chief editor and producer, Herman Silvio’s associate producer, Adam Lefort, social media and content manager, Rosta Leon transcript editor Aleena Almodóvar.
And lastly, myself, the creator and host of Face World. Thank you so much for listening.
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