For a good chunk of my career I suffered from a mental disease that targets corporate marketers.
It’s called Dull-itis. It isn’t lethal but it does repel readers and success. The crazy part is that Dull-itis sufferers believe (incorrectly) that the cure is to simply be more dull. They obsessively work to drain life and emotion from every single communication. They spend hours in conference ways crafting obtuse words to describe simple situations.
Once I sat in a meeting where my management team accused me of making things too simple. Essentially, they were afraid that client’s wouldn’t pay for straight-talk.
Dull-itis strikes again.
The symptoms can be seen in business blog posts. The post start with a mind-numbing thesis. Next comes a astonishingly boring dissection of the mundane and ends clumsily like two preteens experimenting with their first kiss
These dullard blogs are ignored and often forgotten, hidden out of sight until someone has the courage to pull the plug.
If you suspect that you suffer from Dull-itis then take the following prescription.
How to Be Interesting
Tim Ferriss’ latest book the 4 Hour Chef is packed with geek aphrodisiacs that range from learning Spanish in 3 weeks to making Osso Buco. I bought the book at 6AM this morning, and have already read 150 pages – it’s that good.
The main reason is that he is unflinchingly unique. He is digital hoarder of everything remotely fascinating. He then sorts through his crammed Evernote account and weaves an irresistible story about the process of creating his latest collection of bizarre and irresistible facts.
You can’t help but read whatever Ferriss writes (at least I can’t).
Ferriss’ work lives comfortably in the genre pioneered by Malcolm Gladwell (Outliers), Chip & Dan Heath (Made to Stick), Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner (Freakonomics) and Jim Collins (Good to Great). Each of these authors ignored everyday topics and focused on the fringe. Which, is the secret to be interesting.
Ferriss explains that he looks for insights from the freakishly unorthodox practitioners in his chosen subject. He’s discovered that these people hold the key to learning a new skill efficiently and effectively.
His readers visit his blog (millions of readers a month) and buy his books (consistently NYT bestsellers) because they know that Tim has already filtered out the ordinary. He’s a living map to the unorthodox and bizarrely effective.
To be successful, you need to do the same.
I’ll pick on my social media clique to illustrate my point.
Social Media experts cover, recover, explain, and re-explain the ordinary topics. You know the ones, guest posting, writing great content, writing epic content, just writing, how to use Facebook, how to work Pinterest, mastering Twitter, and on and on.
In the end, we all, if we aren’t careful, sound the same. We become white noise that readers, prospects, and customers tune out.
The same happens in your subject. It’s easy to write about what everyone else is writing about because it feels safe. The problem is that you’re boring.
Instead, I suggest that you look for the freakish fringe. Ask yourself:
- What are the counterintuitive strategies that are turning my field upside down?
- Who are the mavericks that are taking chances and experiencing astonishing success?
- What ideas outside of your field have the power to change how you and competitors do business?
Write about this and you will attract a crowd in a hurry. I wish this was an astonishingly prescient point of view – but it ain’t.
Cognitive researchers already know that the human brain is particularly adept at two tasks: Ignoring what hasn’t changed, and noticing what has.
If you write about what everyone is talking about you will be ignored. In fact, our minds have evolved to ignore you.
Write about what’s new. What’s changed and you will catch people’s attention.
Do You Have to Be Bizarre?
Thankfully no. You don’t have to be funny or controversial either, although humor and provocative content will turbocharge your appeal.
But, you do have to offer something new.
You are probably saying, Stan there’s nothing new in my subject area!
If that is truly the case (I doubt it), then why in the heck are you writing a blog? Seriously…why are you spending time and money on something that is less interesting than watching C-Span at 1AM?
I suspect that there is a lot of new ground to cover in your niche, but Dull-itis has put on blinders, preventing you from noticing the truly interesting people, events, and ideas.
I’ve spoken with about 100 bloggers in the last 3 months. I’ve never met a subject that was too boring to blog about. The problem has always been the content creator. Yep, that might be you.
Good news though, you can cure Dull-itis by challenging yourself to explore your topic with fresh eyes. Pick up a copy of the 4 Hour Chef, Blink, or other unorthodox pros and study their methods. You don’t have to be a world-class author, you just have to be curious.
Think you can do this? Let me hear about it.
One More Thing:
I’m still talking with folks about their blogs. It’s 30-minutes of my time for free. Here’s what someone had to say about our chat:
“After just a 30-minute conversation, Stan gave me a pretty solid framework for a blogging strategy for the next year. This guy's good! A lot of "experts" offer abstract advice for how to make money from your blog. Stan drills down to the granular and gives you action items to get your blog on the right track. If you're looking for a clear, easy-to-follow blogging game plan or you're just trying to make sense of it all, then Stan's your man.” – Angie S.