What Do You Stand For?

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Editor’s note: This essay is one of three Second Prize winners of the Copyblogger Media Essay contest, for which writers had 250 words to discuss why it’s essential to be an online authority.

I was cleaning out my attic and came across a great reminder of my early high school days: a homework assignment called “My friend the Axolotl.”

Back then it was considered “character building” to accumulate knowledge and to find my own answers to questions.

So as I sat there in the faint light of my dusty attic reading about all things axolotl, I started to remember the hours I spent trawling for axolotl information in the nature books at home and the local library.

Nowadays kids have the same kinds of assignments but they don’t have the same kind of approach.

Instead of asking “which book is best for axolotls?” they simply Google “axolotl” and now ask “Which of the 600,000 entries should I click on?”

Online access means that kids now have a mind-blowing quantity of knowledge that often paralyzes decisions and inhibits actions.

Not surprisingly, that’s also the fundamental issue my clients have.

We, who have an online-based business, need to accept that too much knowledge (like “recreational drugs” and slow drivers in the highway fast lane) is here to stay. It’s not something we will ever control or see decline because of some law or rule.

What we need to do is adjust our attitudes and position ourselves away from “knowing something” to a higher position of being an authority, “being known for something.”

It’s the stand we take that makes us so compelling and gives us real impact online.

As a Second Prize winner, Mark received a one-year membership to Authority. Previously, Grand Prize winner Anthony Sills received a lifetime Authority membership plus a ticket to Authority Intensive, the live content marketing experience we are hosting this May. You can read Anthony’s winning essay here.

And if you want more insight on how 270+ essays were whittled down to five winners, watch the Essay Contest Wrap-Up Hangout with Demian and Jerod. They highlight the specific elements of the winning essays that separated them from the pack.

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Reader Comments (11)

  1. says

    Your story reminds me of one of the old OZ books I read as a child. In one chapter, you could receive amazing magical powers if you could just pronounce the word Xyxzzytl. I tried my darnedest, but I never could say it. Axolotl is almost as bad. However, in the world of Authority, Google can give you almost magical powers by rating your site high for a popular keyword. Just hope that keyword isn’t Xyxzzytl

  2. says

    Well said, Mark. Information overload can definitely cause paralysis, which I’ve experienced time and time again. Taking one aspect you really like and want to become an authority on and focusing on that one thing until you ARE an authority on it will get you a lot further than trying to know something about a lot of things and never becoming an authority on ANYTHING. Whew. Long sentence.

    Congratulations, Mark, for your second place win!

  3. says

    Congratulations, Mark!

    “Online access means that kids now have a mind-blowing quantity of knowledge that often paralyzes decisions and inhibits actions.”

    Information overload is a dilemma today. It may always have been, but with different Kinds of information. My father and grandfather processed weather patterns and animal behaviors differently back in the day because on a rural farm that minutiae was critical to their livelihood.

    Today’s feels more important and more complex. And in many ways it is.

    Instead of looking for Authority from family members with more life experience, we turn to Google and wonder if the algorithm got it right in their first choices of who we should know-like-trust.

    For their world, knowledge of how to cook up a crawdaddy (our own local version of an amphibious critter) was infinitely more important that the far away existence of axolotl.

    Congratulations on your win. Well done. See you in Authority.

  4. says

    Agreed, nowadays too many people trade learning for action and implementation.

    That said, I’d much rather be Googling a subject than spending 30 minutes to an hour back and forth to the library…just to figure out I picked up the wrong book. As someone who’s learned to balance implementing with learning, I would say having knowledge at your fingertips can be a very good thing if you can balance the power of availability.

  5. says

    Very subtle but important point. Move from “knowing something” to “being known for something” … Nicely put.

    On a different but related note as a reader/consumer of infomration, I find that the ability to ‘eliminate’ or reduce the number of information sources in my life helps to reduce stress quite dramatically.

  6. says

    LOVE this and I so had to Google Axolotl and when I saw one, I remembered reading about them in the Encyclopedia when I was a child!

    I may have to buy myself a set to keep me grounded.

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