What's the "Danger Element" for You as a Creator?
The movie Bohemian Rhapsody has proven to be quite entertaining and it left me feeling pleasantly surprised and informed.
For one, as someone born in in China in the 80s, I’ve heard all the songs before but didn’t know they were from Queen. But more importantly, I found several interviews with the late Freddie Mercury afterward (in the early 1980s, 10 years into their career) that were inspiring to all creators, including a podcaster, indie filmmaker like me.
In the short 3-min interview published by Entertainment Tonight, Freddie said:
“You can get very blase with the public. You built up the public and they only want you for certain things. That’s the wrong way to go about it as far as I’m concerned. They should be aware of what you want to do.”
“You built up a sound and in the end, that’s all they want. Then you are manipulated by the public and that’s the last thing I want to do. The danger element is exactly what we need. Telling them (the audience) this is what we are doing right now, even though we do all the other stuff that they like. It’s good for me because it makes you work harder, and it keeps you on your toes. Otherwise it’ll just be too easy. “
“I couldn’t get any more self-conscious thinking that’s the way I want to perform. It’s taking grasping on a song, and delivering it the way I feel.
We want to “feel safe”
As creators (podcasters, bloggers, YouTubers, etc.), it’s very easy to be manipulated by the public, and we want to “feel safe”. What I mean by that is:
We want to be known for something (that niche)
We are human, we have families and want to be paid to do what we love - if the public likes it and responds to it, we have a better chance to make money from it.
We need to know that we are making progress. It’s easy to look at stats, downloads, analytics - basically a number, a percentage to point to and say “Look, I’m making progress. I can prove it.”
Google search results are currently filled with “How to create your viral content" or '“Let me teach you how to 10X, 100X your downloads, content visibility, likes, shares, etc.”. These messages are no different than people who claim to be able to predict the stock market. They can’t.
What “feels safe” often isn’t safe
People on the internet (often celebrities and influencers) tend to offer shortcuts and lessons learned with a promise to help grow your business. While some content is worth reading, the “formula” you spent thousands of dollars on often don’t work.
Take podcasting as an example, famous podcasters who are pulling in millions of downloads will tell you that you need a “niche”, otherwise nobody can find you and there’s no reason to listen to your show if you are “all over the place”.
But the opposite is true as well. If your subject becomes too narrow, or your niche doesn’t align with your vision and passion, your show will not continue after the first few episodes. (Learn more about podfading here)
Defining what niche is for your writing, podcast, YouTube channel takes time. I’ve seen more creators succeed with a slightly broader topic first before finding their niche, as opposed to being very narrow first, and then expand later.
Finding a balance is the ultimate freedom to experiment
What’s considered to be narrow or niche can be subjective. Is a podcast about Chinese female entrepreneurs too niche? Well, it depends on the creator and the nature of her business, and the podcast may serve her very well. However, it wouldn’t work for me because I want to learn from a variety of people. The goal for my podcast isn’t to attract a very specific demographic or interest I have other projects (such as learning for podcasters, and how to start freelancing, and how to create your first DIY documentary) that do focus on a specific cohort of people and their needs.
As a creator, what I find successful is not to put all my eggs in one basket. I once struggled long and hard about the direction of Feisworld Podcast. What’s Feisworld? Who are these unsung heroes and self-made artists? Do they matter to the public?
Instead, Feisworld Podcast (since it’s inception in 2014) was a platform for me to broaden my reach, and my learning as a human being. At the time I was 31 and I felt incredibly thirsty for knowledge. And no, it wasn’t just knowledge in digital marketing to advance my career, it wasn’t another degree at a famous college I can brag about. I wanted another chance as an adult to be constantly learning new things, meeting new people who can teach me in all sorts of ways. Because life isn’t just one thing.
One of the most successful bloggers and thinkers, Maria Popova, said on the On Being podcast with Krista Tippet: “My site (Brain Picking) is really a record of my becoming who I am. I started so early in my 20s. I didn’t know who I was. I wasn’t doing that much reading then. And it eventually became that. “
I thought to myself, what a brilliant idea to keep track of your own becoming. Feisworld Podcast is like a personal album with words and pictures. It’s only been 4.5 years, 196 episodes, and so many more stories and reflections.
Critical thinking for your own life
What’s your danger element as a creator? When we hear that question, we almost immediately think about our unfair advantage, “secret weapon”, unique skill and offering to the public. Instead, I think it’s a way of thinking.
During my most recent altPodcasters discussion, Michael O’Brien talked about the clarity of what makes him happy. Instead of following ideas from other influencers he admires (Seth Godin, Mario Forleo, etc.) he’s content with coaching, speaking, running his online academy. He says “People tell me all the time that I need my $249 product and I need to do more. But when you start something new, you have to be willing to give up something else. To me, that might mean personal and family time. So I’m happy where I am right now.”
In the same conversation, Steven Thompson (also an altpodcater and host of the Steven Thompson Experience podcast) pointed out when I said “I’m behind on creating more revenue streams…”. He immediately pointed out “Why are you feeling behind after creating the docuseries, running the podcast in parallel and this mastermind group. You aren’t behind.”
We are constantly comparing ourselves, questioning if we are doing enough without proper “energy management” (I learned this term from Michael O’Brien and I think it’s quite self-explanatory). More and more self-motivated creators are falling into this trap. It takes a trusted community to confront these sabotaging behaviors.
Christy Bohrer (new altPodcaster since 2019, social media strategist) lives in Kansas with her family (together with her wife, a young child, and her relatives). She came to realize that she must define her good life on her own terms, instead of following the work and life decisions of someone else’s who doesn’t share anything in common.
We learn and talk about critical thinking all the time in school and at work. But we rarely apply it to our own personal and creative lives.
Does this message resonate with you? If so, please share your comments below. Thank you!
Got 5 more minutes? Here’s another low-key interview with the soft-spoken Freddie Mercury, published by Queen in 1982