If you’ve been following along recently, you know I’ve been on a kick about forming original thought. And it continued yesterday during an Unreal Collective group call when we discussed the merits and challenges of creating unique or proprietary language!
As I think about writing more and making my own assertions, frameworks, and methods, I find myself having the most success in articulating new, original thoughts in areas where I feel like I’m close to the edges.
It makes sense. We have to learn from somewhere, so once we get interested in an area, we seek out the best place to learn in that area. We read books, take courses, listen to interviews etc. until we feel like we’ve learned all there is available for us to learn.
Once you start reading the same ideas multiple times, you know you’re sort of at the edge.
From there (whether real or imagined) there’s nowhere to go but to start paving your own path from that edge. It can be through experiment, or by finding the intersection of ideas in that realm with ideas in another realm (this is why it’s so powerful for people to disrupt businesses and industries as outsiders).
And it’s such an amazing time to be interested in learning and creating because the edges have never been more tangible and accessible.
Let me beat my favorite dead horse — Seth Godin and marketing. Seth has been working in marketing for 30+ years. Through his own work and by learning from others, he’s at the edges of marketing.
But he puts out so much content, as books, courses, podcasts, and more, that I can be at the edge by following him closely! I can walk right up to the edge with him, look over, and say, “Actually, based on everything you’ve said and the things I’ve learned from these other data points I’ve collected, I disagree with your current view. I’m going to walk from this edge to my own, new edge — and others can follow along too if they’d like.”
It’s that way for any thought leader. It used to be that you learned from mentors and that you needed personal, 1-to-1 interaction with them for that knowledge transfer to occur.
Not anymore. Your mentors are in the cloud. Seth is one of my most impactful mentors, and he has no idea.
Bo Burnham has no idea that he’s changing the way I think about social media and my creative process.
Ben Thompson has no idea that his writing shapes how I interview guests on our podcast.
Depending on your pace of learning, you can get to the edges faster than any of your mentors ever did.
And then you have a choice!
You can take the feel goods of learning via consumption and wait until there is more for you to consume and feel good again, or you can produce.
You can walk out from that edge on your own, and start defining your own edge.
If you do that, there behind you you’ll find someone else looking to get to the edge — the edge you just created. That’s where new value and contribution really is.