Start you, stay you

Life & Work

There are always copycats. But the last 10 years or so have been a particularly vicious period of time. The “what’s working now” changes so rapidly in this environment that to “catch the wave” you must move fast.

But what happens when the wave breaks?

A few lucky ones survive—having rode the wave to its peak and risen above the surf. They get to coast along until the next big wave hits when it remains to be determined whether they’ll survive that one or drown along with the rest.

Think about it—what a MISERABLE way to do business! In this mode of operating, the flux is so rapid and the pace so demanding that it’s no wonder levels of burnout and depression are at an all-time high. Imagine always chasing and being behind the 8 ball.

What I find so intriguing is how the most enduring companies, creators, and products don’t chase trends. They’re not about “what’s working now.” Heck, sometimes, they go the opposite direction on purpose. Most of the time, they simply stay in their lane, undeterred. Unmoved by the voices around them calling them to move this way or that.

Because history repeats itself, what ultimately happens if you stay in the game long enough, is that the trends catch back up with you. Making you more relevant than ever before, and for an entirely new group of people. In that moment, it’s like the flywheel gets a turbo booster.

Perhaps you only get to ride that wave (mixing metaphors now, but go with it) for a short time, but the extra boost means you get to keep the influence you gained for longer.

“Stop talking theory Steve—what the heck do you mean?”

Ok fine.

Consider YouTube. The Rise of Mr. Beast brought along with it an editing style called “retention editing.” It’s the fast-paced, jump-cut-laced videos that bring you to the edge of a seizure. You were trying to chill on the couch and watch a video, not have your brain pulled from side to side trying to keep up with the talking head.

That style is…falling out of favor, let’s say. Here’s just one example.

The world is, as I have mused about recently, longing for a return to the authenticity of Web 1.0. But that’s good news for me! Why? Because I determined a long time ago I wasn’t going to make those annoying videos, view-count-be-damned. Why?

I didn’t wanna.

That simple.

Now guess what, the world wants what I’ve been doing. And I’ve even had specific commenters tell me my videos come across as more chill and authentic because of it.

Then I look at my heroes at 37signals. Other than some short marketing videos that are intentionally designed like “ads,” their videos have historically been unedited, “boring” screen recordings or talking head videos.

Sure they have a low subscriber count (only on YouTube, tho)—but they have a thriving business, a loyal audience, and now their style is “in” again in 2024. Who knows what kind of a jump they’ll see this year?

Here’s the point: Start you, stay you.

Don’t be “them” — you ain’t them! Let them be them, and they’ll stay them, but you ain’t them! Start you, stay you. And even if “you” ain’t trendy now, it will be soon. You can almost guarantee it.

One of my old bosses used to say, “Be what you is, and not what you ain’t. Cause if you ain’t what you is, then you is what you ain’t!”

Get it?

Jan 19, 2024

About Me

Hey, I'm Steve — a Christian, entrepreneur, thinker, and creator. Thanks for stopping by!

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