The 3:00 a.m. Secret Question That Drives Meaningful Success

image of graffiti with word Secret

“I want you to ask your secret question.”

That’s what Seth Godin asked the audience at the end of his generous Authority Intensive session with us in Denver this past May.

The room was packed with fanboys and fangirls (I’m one) who were reeling a little from 45 minutes of intense marketing, business, and life advice.

Your secret question is the one that you can ask without anyone laughing at you, and that I know the answer to but that I’ve never told you before, even though I’ve had 5,600 chances to tell you … and that if I then told you the secret answer, you’d be fine.

That idea of the “Secret Question” stayed with me.

Take a minute to think about it now. What’s your secret question? What would you ask if no one else was listening? What’s the one answer that you think would change everything?

Most of us have a secret question

Actually, we probably have a whole pile of them.

These are the 3:00 a.m. questions. The ones that crawl around in the deep parts of our brains.

The real secret question

I have a theory.

I think our real secret question — the one that we sometimes keep secret even from ourselves, is this:

Why should I keep going?

I’ve noticed some people are entirely unafflicted by this question. Interestingly, it’s often the people who don’t necessarily have a lot to offer that is original, groundbreaking, or even useful.

I can spot someone a mile away whose DNA doesn’t include this question. This post isn’t for them. They’re going to be fine, and with a little luck they can find something valuable to contribute along the way.

But for those who do wrestle with this, I have a secret answer.

Are you helping someone?

Is there some person, somewhere, who is wrestling with a problem that you’re pretty good at solving?

It might be a big important problem, or a small, “trivial” one. But it matters to that person.

The information might be available somewhere else. In our internet-infused world, the information is almost always available somewhere else.

But is it where your person can find it?

Is it in the voice your person can hear?

Is it presented in a format that your person will consume?

Now take a look at your site. Look through the most recent 10-20 posts and give them a grade on the above questions.

Is it useful? To whom? How could you make it more useful?

When you understand this at the deepest level, your marketing decisions get much clearer. You have a better understanding of what to write, and for whom.

And when you learn new techniques and strategies, you see how you can put them into place, instead of just getting more confused.

A quick homework assignment

Make time today to sit down for 10 focused minutes. Write out the answers to the questions below. (I happen to do better with this kind of thing when I use physical pen and ink, but we’re all different.)

  • Who do you help?
  • How do you help them?
  • What could you do to make yourself more useful?

Now: What actions will you take this week to put those insights into practice?

This exercise isn’t just for newbies. Give it a try and let us know what you come up with. We’d love to hear your answers over on Google+.

Flickr Creative Commons image by JAM Project. Some rights reserved.

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