Lately, people think I've got a plan. They believe I'm executing a carefully crafted playbook. I host two podcasts. I write a blog. I do a lot of interviews and speak at a lot of events. I'm working on a book.
I have no idea what I'm doing.
No one is more surprised by the traction my work is getting than I am. So, when people ask me "How do you find blog readers," or "How can I get more podcast listeners," I don't know what to say. It's as much a mystery to me today as it's ever been.
I don't think anybody knows what they're doing. All the people we think of as successful or influential, as far as I can tell, are mystified at how their work finds an audience.
This mystery is not absolute, because I can track the changes in my life to some specific changes in behavior, and I've noticed these behaviors are common to everyone I know whose work has scale.
1. What you do today beats what you might do tomorrow.
We humans are natural dreamers, and we like to plan out a path that will give us the most reward for the least effort. We work on and refine ideas in our heads endlessly. We imagine our book, or our podcast, or our hit record.
Stop doing that.
There's nothing wrong with dreaming, but people can't hear your dreams. You have to wrestle your dreams from the ether and into form. You have to sit down and type, or record, or sculpt.
You'll hate a lot of what you make. The first fruits will look and smell funny. That's ok. Your failure to produce something you like is exactly what teaches you to make something that you do like.
So dream, dream big, but work on turning those dreams into a work every single day. Don't talk about writing, or read about writing. Write.
2. Make what you need.
Despite all the myriad media options today, there is something you wish existed that does not. Some different sound in music, or some discussion or story. You want to read a story about two computers that fall in love but can't have babies. You want to hear a song that features an accordion/banjo backing tracks.
On a deeper level than taste, what's missing in the world? What story is untold? What downtrodden community needs a hand?
Congratulations, it's your job to make the thing you want. No one else will. You may find that when you build a daily discipline of making things, more ideas come to you. Write them down–you may miss them later.
3. Talk about what you love and what breaks your heart.
Forget marketability. Don't look at the trends. What makes you tick? What wakes you up? What turns you on?
That's what your work should be about. The more specific the better. I love neuroscience and Jesus, so I talk about those things a lot. I like the poetry of cosmology. It doesn't matter how weird it is–the more I love it the more people respond to it.
One of the most popular episodes of The Liturgists Podcast is about an obscure theory of human consciousness. That episode gets passed around like candy, and I've met some amazing people because of it.