What’s that? You didn’t realize you had an enemy?
Don’t tell me you’re unfamiliar with that procrastinating self-destructive demon that’s thwarted so many of your best efforts.
You know, that troll standing on the bridge between your actual life and the un-lived life within you, the dream of which likely started you down this crazy blogging path in the first place.
Yeah, that bastard.
We’re going to face him, right now …
Welcome to the war, kid. Here’s your field manual
The secret enemy has a name … Resistance. The bad news is that Resistance is real, and that it wants to kill you and your dreams like cancer.
The good news is that it can be beaten.
And the better news is that Resistance can actually become the secret to establishing your own blogging authority, even if your credentials aren’t what you’d like them to be (yet). Even if you’re entering an already overcrowded field.
If you don’t have both this book and Pressfield’s The War of Art, you’re handicapping yourself.
Really. Do yourself a favor and buy them both ASAP.
But for now, here’s just a taste of what Steve has to say about Resistance and its (perverse) ability to demand the kind of clarity in your work so necessary to establishing authority:
Using Resistance like a compass
Resistance puts two questions to each and all of us. Each question has only one correct answer. ~Steven Pressfield
So what are the two questions?
#1 How bad do you want it?
#2 Why do you want it?
So, taking that from Steve, let’s skip question #1 (you already know the only correct answer to that one, right?), and move on to question #2. Here’s Steve’s list of common answers:
- for the babes (or the dudes)
- the money
- for fame
- because I deserve it
- for power
- to prove my old man wrong
- to serve my vision of how life/mankind ought to be
- for fun or beauty
- because I have no choice
Which answers will get you past Resistance and which will leave you stuck?
The last two are acceptable answers according to Pressfield — answers that he claims are really the same.
But the third answer from the bottom isn’t acceptable, which just might shock a lot of kumbaya bloggers. And understanding why is the real key to using Resistance to determine exactly the kind of posts that’ll help you break through the clutter.
Here’s how this connects with authority
In order for readers to grant a blogger authority, they need to feel that the blogger:
- Is her “own person,” and not a me-too copycat or slave to textbook answers
- Isn’t in it just for money, attention, or fame, but because she actually cares about her craft and her readers
- Is producing content that provides critical analysis, based on actual experience, rather than blind obedience to industry or conventional wisdom
So obviously, the first 6 answers to “why do you want it?” — for the babes, money, fame, power, etc. — directly violate the “not just in it for the money” part of authority.
Also, if those are your primary motivators, you’re probably not anywhere close to being your own person, as self-actualized people aren’t driven by those kinds of lusts, after all.
The kumbaya pitfall and how to sidestep it
And that leaves us with the problematic “To serve my vision of how life/mankind ought to be.” Sounds high-minded, but in practice it can come off as preachy and ego-directed.
Expressing to others a vision of how mankind/life ought be is the opposite of following the whisper of your own intuition, of writing in order to explore and discover.
Even if your goal is to demonstrate expertise, your writing should feel more like you’re sharing a map of your explorations than preaching a philosophy.
If you’re writing to serve a philosophy, you’re very likely not serving your muse/genius/authentic self, … and you’re very likely coming up with me-too material.
It’s a trap, and it will kill your authority deader than a bag of hammers.
Make Resistance work for you
Bottom Line: authority-building content becomes easier to create when you’ve got clarity around why you’re blogging.
But beyond that, the posts that will really push your authority to the next level are the ones that can most cause Resistance to well up inside you.
The “scary” posts are the posts you most desperately need to write.
Here are the most common kinds of Resistance-inducing & authority-building posts:
1. Posts where you reveal your own personal / embarassing misadventures
You need to get comfortable blogging naked, because the stories of “this is how I flubbed up” or “this is the weird side window through which I learned something cool” allow readers to emotional connect to you — and by extension to your expertise/advice/mission.
And yet these posts are painful to write. I write darn few of ‘em myself. Fear and Resistance keep many of us from it, and that means it’s likely the best path forward.
2. Posts where you offer unique explanations for otherwise common material
Sticky explanations get repeated and quoted, regardless of who penned them.
And whenever they’re quoted, they bestow added authority onto their creators. Merlin Mann actually did a better job of explaining Getting Things Done than David Allen. And that early post on 43 Folders turned him into a widely recognized expert on the subject.
Think about your own field, niche, and subculture — couldn’t you produce exactly this kind of exquisitely clear explanation?
So why aren’t you?
Because these kinds of posts force you to ask yourself: how well do I really understand this? Could I explain it to a reasonably bright 11 year old?
And even more importantly:
- am I willing to search for clearer examples?
- am I willing to create — from scratch if necessary — before and after comparisons?
- am I willing to risk being accused of “oversimplifying” if I break a point down for maximum clarity so that it become “directionally true” but technically innacurate?
Here’s another example: Among all the many “show, don’t tell” writing posts out there, precious few provide the side-by-side comparisons of telling v. showing writing like this one.
But Resistance says it’s 20 times easier to just rehash the principle rather than finding examples. Plus, if we use our own examples, there’s the chance “they’re all gonna laugh at us!”
Once again, the posts that create resistance and fear are the posts that’ll build authority.
3. Specific and unique tricks and techniques for implementing common procedures
Everyone might know about the general procedure, (like asking for testimonials) but offering practical and micro-level how-to advice (like which 6 questions will get you the best testimonials) shows you’ve made that task your own.
And yet, it’s hard to share what can feel like our stock in trade. Especially if Resistance has already made you feel as if the only thing you have to offer are tricks and tips.
So recognize that this mindset — that there’s a limited amount of good ideas — is largely driven by Resistance. What you should be offering is *more than* just technical know how. And once you come to grips with that, you’ll see that the same people who share incredibly useful tricks and techniques (like Sean D’Souza, The Eisenbergs and Copyblogger’s staff) are also the same folks who everyone recognizes as authorities.
Don’t give away the farm, but do demonstrate expertise with shared tips, tricks, and techniques
4. At least 1-2 unique perspectives that clash with the conventional wisdom
You can’t be a thought leader unless you leave the pack at some point.
There’s got to be something about your field’s conventional wisdom and common practice that’s out of whack from your perspective.
Handled properly, this difference in opinion can be a blessing. This is where you can engage in spirited (but polite) argument with the big names of reigning orthodoxy — debate that automatically ups your own perceived authority and authenticity.
Yet, this kind of argument opens you up to attack, too, which makes Resistance shout, “they’re all gonna laugh at you”
So let Resistance be your guide: outwardly embrace a position that you have no choice but to embrace inwardly. And then pray that you are called on to defend your position against the big boys — few things can boost your perceived authority as much.
So that covers the four most common posts that inspire heavy Resistance but that can be used to build authority with maximum impact in minimal time.
And if you want extra help in battling Resistance, you’ll find it in Do The Work and The War of Art.
Keep ‘em close to hand and you’ll do just fine; The War of Art will give you the big picture and help you identify the enemy, while Do The Work will give you the tactical drills to kick its ugly ass out of your way.
About the Author: Jeff Sexton is in charge of Optimization Management for BoostCTR, a partner in the Wizard of Ads consulting firm, a well-known online copywriter and optimization expert, as well as a faculty member at Wizard Academy, where he co-teaches Persuasive Online Copywriting. You can find him online at www.jeffsextonwrites.com.
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