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How to Prioritize What Matters (And Get More Done) Ft. Ryan Baum
Episode 6226th March 2024 • Distribution First • Justin Simon
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In this episode, Justin sits down with Ryan Baum to unpack the crucial practice of prioritization and how it affects your productivity. They deep-dive into the pitfalls of prioritizing the wrong tasks and share advice on how content marketers can focus on activities that truly move the needle. They'll challenge you to adopt a mindset that's centered on results, efficiency, and clever repurposing — without losing sight of what's important.

Subscribe to Distribution First and join us in fine-tuning your content's lifecycle for maximum impact.

In this episode, you'll learn:

  • How to prioritize tasks for better productivity.
  • Why focusing on "big rocks" boosts content impact.
  • When to push back as a team player.
  • Ways to battle perfectionism and anxiety.
  • Strategies for embracing authentic perspectives.

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Transcripts

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Everybody, before we get started, I want to thank my friends at Hatch for producing

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this episode. You can get unlimited podcast editing and strategy for

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one flat rate by visiting Hatch FM.

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All right, let's get in the show.

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Welcome to Distribution first, the show where we flip content marketing on its head

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and focus on what happens after you hit publish. Each week I

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share playbooks, motivations, stories, and strategies to help you repurpose and

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distribute your content because you deserve to get the most out of everything you

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created.

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Everybody, welcome to this week's episode of Distribution first.

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So excited to have Ryan with me today. And we're going to be

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chatting a little bit of a divergent path, but it's all going to tie

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back in to what we all love and talk about here, which is

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distribution, repurposing content, actually really doing content marketing

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the smart way, a more efficient way. And so

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really today what we're going to talk about is how do we, as content

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marketers or marketers in general, how can we focus on what we need

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to work on versus what we think we should be

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working on versus what we're told we should be working

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on versus. There's no time to work on the things that I need to

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work on because I'm in 18 meetings a day. So we're going to talk about

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all of those things today. Super excited to have Ryan on the show. Ryan, welcome

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in. Hey, Justin, how are you doing? Glad to finally be here.

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Absolutely. So it was funny, it was kind of serendipitous. As

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we were talking about this topic and what we were going to talk about, I

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came across this quote from Tim Ferriss that I think is a great starting point

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for this whole conversation, which is doing something

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unimportant, well, does not make it

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important. Doing something

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unimportant, well, does not make it

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important. And I think that's a huge sort of launching point for how

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we do things. I think sometimes, man, as marketers especially,

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it's easy to get sucked into the tactics, it's easy to get

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sucked into the work and make everything important.

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And really, at the end of the day, the unimportant things that we think we're

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doing, well, it doesn't actually make them important at all.

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Exactly. So I guess talk me through a little bit

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in your roles as you come from gorgeous, you've

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worked at other companies. Now you're working for yourself as well. So talk to me

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about either your struggles or maybe some of those experiences that you've had

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in terms of prioritizing the correct things or even just

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coming up with what the heck is the most important thing that I should be

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working on. Oh, my God. Yeah. I mean, it is, to this day,

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a constant struggle. When I texted you before this, and I

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dropped this topic because it's been on my mind from therapy this morning,

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and I am not coming at this. I may be on a podcast right now,

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but I am not coming at this from any place of expertise. I'm coming at

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this from a place of being very interested in it because of how bad I

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am at it. Right. And how I want to get better. I think when you

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start consulting, everything is a trade off. You're in house. It's all a trade off.

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You spend time doing one thing versus another or working extra hours,

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that's a trade off on things. You could be spending time with a partner or

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family or friends. But when you get to set your own 40

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hours a week, and in our cases, like, is it even 40 hours a week?

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The trade offs become so apparent and so

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present in your day to day thinking. And so I've

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always known I need to prioritize better and ship faster and all

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these things we all say we want to do, but when I don't have to

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be on until six, and I could be at the park right now, and I'm

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not, because I'm doing a thing that I don't need to do. You really feel

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it in a new way because there's, like, parkinson's law, like, the work

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expands to fill the time, and so when you

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have 8 hours a day at work, you're like, well, I got to be here

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till six. You're not really incentivized to

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speed it up, especially since a lot of people who are really efficient get

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rewarded by taking on someone else's work that they didn't.

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You know, it is kind of like an interesting shift. And

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even Erica Schneider posted yesterday about this

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idea of overstrategizing and taking too long. It's never

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done. Just ship it. And I posted a little

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bit about what I've been working on, which is understanding that

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perfectionism, I think, for everyone in all cases, is like,

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at its core, an anxiety response. Right? Because wanting

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to do good work, wanting to get better results, those are absolutely things

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that can drive that anxiety response. But they're not

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what's driving the perfectionism, because if you wanted to do good work and get

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results, you would ship the thing and you would let it be good

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work that gets results. And so I think, for

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me, the first unlock happened when

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I was at gorgeous, realizing that if I

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actually want to make something not perfect, because that's

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impossible, but close as possible, you have to ship it as part of that

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before it's done, actually, which is the hard part, because if you want to make

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the best thing possible, necessarily, you have to start getting those

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ideas out, start battle, testing them, getting feedback from the

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market, right? We all, as content people, have a story

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of the blog post or the LinkedIn post that

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we overthought and

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overdid, but then we were like, it's worth it because it's going to be a

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banger. And then it is not a banger because at the end of

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the day, you just don't know until it goes

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out. And so I'm really trying to take more of this

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iterative approach. Oh yeah. And so that feedback

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loop was the first unlock. I'm not doing this efficiently.

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I think I'm being efficient by only doing it once, but that's actually not even

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possible. Second unlock, the more important unlock that actually has started to do

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it for me is recognizing this stress response isn't

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coming from this project will be bad and there will be consequences,

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because no one bad project, for the most part, sinks any of

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us. Right? It's the self

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worth and sense of self that we have tied up in our work and our

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ability to be productive. That's what takes the hit, or what we

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imagine will take the hit from shipping

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bad work, right? Erica's post was most

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human response, gets a cookie. And the end of my comment was

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like, never ever received a cookie for the

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ideas that are idealized in my head that no one knows about.

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Gotten a lot of cookies though, for shit that I shipped that I wasn't happy

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with and thought it wasn't ready, and then it worked really well.

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So I think there's a lesson in that. Mostly for me, I'm speaking to myself

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and trying to like this news flash is, for me, almost

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entirely 1000%. This is the

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thing, too. It's like if you're listening to this show, you're probably on the higher

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end of achiever than somebody who's not, right? So I think if you're washing

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the dishes or walking your dog and you're listening to distribution first, you're probably

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a little bit on the high achieving end. So I'm sure lots of people relate

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to that. I'm on the high achieving end, and I think anybody who

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bends that way holds themselves to a much higher standard

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than anybody else would. And sometimes it's to

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the detriment. And you touched on it with the ideal standard. And so when you

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measure yourself against an ideal, you're never going to get

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there. I've heard it described as the horizon line. Right.

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If your ideal is, I'm going to hit that line,

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and yet every bit of progress you make, that

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line never gets closer. And that's your measuring point.

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You're going to be miserable. And so you feel like you're doing so

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many things, and yet there's no way that you can even get

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there because you've set your measurement point at a place that is

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completely and utterly unrealistic. Absolutely. So what I've sort of found and

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what I've started to do that has completely changed how I measure myself, how I'm

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viewing success. It's allowed me to ship things faster. And this has really only

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started, really, this quarter is

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measuring backward. So measuring backward on

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how much further am I at the end of Q one

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compared to the beginning of Q one? How much further am I

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in March compared to February? What learnings have like,

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having learning be a goal. Learning by

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shipping, by sending that email series that I did not want

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to send because it was salesy. Oh, I learned I could sell a workshop and

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I could write it. I learned that I could do that. That's how you build

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confidence and you're able to do more things. But, yeah, when you have

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that ideal set of. This is what a good blog, even on a

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tactical, like something you want to create. This is what a blog post is. This

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is what this is. And we've all been through rounds of edits

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and 100 things, and it's never the perfect thing. One of my buddies who does

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video, he's like, a video is never done. It's never done because you can always

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edit it. You can change this, you can fix it. And so you just got

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to ship. You just got to ship. Yeah. And, you know, something that's been

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really helping me with all of this mindset outside of just

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therapy is I've been reading Rick Rubin's book. I've been listening to a lot of

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his podcasts on this circuit he's doing.

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And I've had folks that I really admire where

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I'll listen to them on a couple different shows, and even some of the ones

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that like a big fan, they've got their talk track that they've

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worked on with. They're selling their thing. And Rick Rubin's

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book comes from such an authentic place in him that the host can kind of

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take it in whatever direction that they want. And because what he's

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selling is his philosophy. He doesn't have to bring it

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back. It applies. So I listened to him do like an on

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being episode with Krista Tippett, and that shows very much about a holistic

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and well lived life. And what does that mean? And how does creativity fit

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into that? And how can we release some of these expectations on

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ourselves to be happier and more at peace? And then I

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went and listened to him on the Happiness project. I think it's called dude took

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a completely different avenue. And another thing

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I don't love about podcasts is sometimes it feels like the guest, especially with someone

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like Rick Rubin, who's like a legend, is unwilling to challenge

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them because what am I going to say to Rick Rubin? You

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know what I mean? But he really embraced that

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and was also very quick to be like, I

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disagree with the way you just took that thing that I said, but

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it wasn't. You're wrong. It's. We have different

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perspectives. And I think that's been something that

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in a lot of areas of my life, but especially in marketing,

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where it's business and you really want to get it right, kind of letting go

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of the fact that there is no absolute truth anywhere,

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right. In marketing especially, but in life, you know what I

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mean? At least not objective, right? Because for everything you think is

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an objective truth, there's someone else who is not

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accepting of that. And so in my

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content efforts, I'm leaning more into wanting personal

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pOVs to drive the work that I do. Even

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if you do a study to have five people with different perspectives

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on it give full commentary, to give the context from their

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perspective, and not just getting quotes from ten people and

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finding the mean, really showcasing that there are

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different approaches to this. I think best practices

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are not useless, but I do think

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we rely far too much on them. I'll speak for myself. In the past,

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I have relied way too much on best practices

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because like everyone, I want to achieve and

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accomplish the results that I'm set in my OKRs. And the best

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practice is like a proven way, proven framework playbook to

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get there. What I'm realizing, looking back and also just looking around, talking

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to a lot of consultants, working at a lot of different companies, talking to a

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lot of in house folks, it's not even that. Best practices

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are not the full picture, and there's nuance beyond it. I'm kind of

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not huge on them at all right now because to

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me, best practices are designed to

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reduce to that mean, to reduce the surface area

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for failure. And in business and

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in life, to a degree, we are really incentivized to

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not fail. Right. You can have an absolute banger

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quarter and take that risk, and people will be like, yeah, pat you on the

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back, but then you're only as good as your next quarter's numbers. If you have

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a dismal quarter, you're not going to see your next quarter's numbers. You won't be

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there to tell that story. A lot of times. I'm not blaming anyone.

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I totally understand why we're incentivized to not take risks. It's

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like the idea of no one ever got fired for hiring Deloitte

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because people would rather hire the firm that can be the

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scapegoat that is respected and lose than take the

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risk to win big, but then have to eat it with the risky

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option if it doesn't go well. Right. And I think I just said

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a lot, so I'll let you respond to that. But that's kind of where I'm

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at, is not only are we not incentivizing great work, I think we're, like, actively

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making it impossible when everything has to follow this best

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practice. And I've just seen too many founders point

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at these companies that are unicorns who took big risks,

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that paid off and did things that no one else was doing and say, be

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like them, but they think they're going to get there by trying a new outbound

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sequence. Right? It's no risk, no reward.

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Right. Well, and it's never the tactics that get them

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there. Right? Microsoft could do the exact same

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tactics as apple and fail

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miserably because Apple, at least

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at the time, with Steve Jobs, when everything was really

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exploding, was willing to take risks. And

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I think to Steve Jobs credit, if you pulled the

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board when he was going after

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the sort of outcast as the target market, I bet there's

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a whole slew of folks who said, that was the dumbest idea. It's too small.

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What they missed that Steve Jobs understood was that everybody has

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a little bit of that in them because he wasn't. Going on a

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dashboard. He was tapping into something that he felt deeply as a

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human being and saw in others and in himself. And I think when

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you look at why Steve Jobs was successful, a

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big part of it was he had a very strong POV that

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he was unafraid. He would rather go down doing it his way

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than doing it the safe way. And obviously, he

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had great instincts over time. And we see that in the

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products that launched under his tenure. But I don't know.

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I think there are things that Steve Jobs launched that if another

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company did the exact same launch, exact same way, it wouldn't have

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worked. I think people like the audacity of it to a degree.

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It feels authentic and it feels bold. And the fact that they

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know Steve Jobs doesn't care is, I think, kind of the point.

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And he had a lot of good checks in the right areas. So I think

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that's the other side of this, because then you have the founders who think that

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they walk on water and don't ever want to listen to their team. And that's

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also wrong, because, a, you're not Steve Jobs. And even Steve Jobs was wrong. Plenty

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of times. You look at stuff that he wrote or that was written about him,

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and there's a quote from, I think Andy Grove

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said it, who was the CEO of Intel, wrote high output management, one of my

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favorite management books. But I think it's in radical candor,

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actually, Kim Scott's book. And she's talking about

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basically having lunch with Andy Grove. And she

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was, yeah, like, it's crazy. Apple's on such a tear. And

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he. Well, you know, Steve and the guys at Apple, they always get it right.

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And he was like, no one always is right. And he said, I didn't say

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he was always right. Said, he always gets it right. And if you actually look

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at her examination of the

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culture at Apple during the time when these big innovations were happening,

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first of all, she was pretty toxic. So there was definitely a better way to

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do it. I was going to say it's not. All roses, but it's definitely not.

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And I'm not saying that you need to be an ass like Steve Jobs was

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to get this done. But what I do think he did really well is

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if you didn't challenge him and he realized that you had the answer

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and you were too scared to say it, he held you accountable for,

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like, it was as bad to be quiet. It was actually worse, probably to him,

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than to be wrong. And so that's kind of the point Andy, I

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think, was making in that passage, which I probably badly paraphrase. But the idea

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is you have to both be bold, but you also have to

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empower the people around you to be bold to tell you when you're off track.

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Because the downside of a singular POV is that

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there's no feedback loop in your head.

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I can tell you from twelve years of working in house

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now working with several companies and talking with several

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companies, having a POV is a

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very rare place to be for a company.

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And having a founder who owns the

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POV and understands the market and understands

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the why behind the product, it's rare. It is rare to

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have and then have that spread through the entire company. Totally. I

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think there's a reason why at the heart, if you're looking at the heart and

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the core reasons why those things struggle is like, okay,

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marketing department, go create some messaging. This is who we are as a company.

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Marketing department struggles to come up with anything that resonates with the

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founder or the CEO or they come up with something, but it

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doesn't truly feel authentic

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because it's not. And so I think I can say, even for

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my small level of success that I've been able to have with distribution

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first. It all comes back to having that core point of view

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over time that I actually believe and care about.

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And it's not to say distribution first is the only way you can do content

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marketing. I've never said distribution first is the only way you can do content

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marketing. I've said it's a differentiated,

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potentially better way if you want to get the same

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output with less inputs and get more bang out of your buck, all that

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type of stuff. But you can run a successful content marketing

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program with volume and manage a volume. That's not

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how I would do it anymore, but you can do that. And so I think

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that's the core of it too, is being able to have a

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really strong point of view that you care about and you believe

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in and a story that you believe in. Way easier as a solo

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person to figure those things out than if you're working at a company. But

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if you're looking to move jobs, if you're looking to how do I advance in

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my career? What am I looking for? Those would be some of the main things

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I would be looking for moving forward because that's

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how companies are going to win.

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I saw somebody the other day kind of just chatting and it's like they're waiting

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for the Costco version of

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Salesforce to come out. Like Kirkland Salesforce, where

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it's like a 10th the cost with all the like,

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it's kind of a funny joke, but that could happen. There's no reason

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why that couldn't happen. And so unless you

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are sort of building your business in that way, that's going to be hard

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to compete on. But yeah, just to keep things moving. Talking really about

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the productivity side and to move that back. I'm curious, on your end,

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one of the things I think people struggle with when it comes to

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prioritization is even going back to the

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important versus unimportant urgent, know, like the classic

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quadrant, if anybody's familiar with the Eisenhower Quadrant. And

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if not, make sure to look that up because it's a helpful exercise.

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But for me, I always love the analogy of the big

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rocks, pebbles and sand. Are you familiar with that, Ryan?

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Okay, so I am. And it was a huge thing at

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gorgeous, to the point where all hands meetings were literally big rocks

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on our calendar was the name. But I made it

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through two years at gorgeous, and no one explained to me what the hell big

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rocks are. So, Justin, I think you should just share really quick what the concept

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is because once I actually learned what it meant, now it's all clicking. Why

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didn't someone just tell me that? I thought it was their big boulder. So you

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have to push them forward slowly, but they're important. Got

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you. Yeah. Big rocks are like life's a jar. Your work is a

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jar. You've got this jar of stuff and then big rocks being your most

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important things. These are the things we have to get done. Pebbles being

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like this stuff is okay, it's not

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necessary. Sand being like the worthless

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junk that we kind of need to do to keep the lights on, but is

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really unimportant in the macro. And so if you think about this from like, a

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content perspective, because you can break this down in a business, you can break this

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down for a content. So let's look at it from a content perspective. A lot

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of people that I coach and consult with, they have big rocks.

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And part of the problem is they have so many big rocks, you could never

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fit them all in the jar to begin with. So that's one problem. You might

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have so many big, small, little rocks and your jar container

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is only so big, the volume does not. Or they have the right number of

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big rocks. But in their notion, doc, they have a lot of

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pebbles sized bigger than they actually are in real life. Right.

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Well, because if you don't deprioritize, then there are no big rocks.

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I'll let you continue. But I think that's like an important distinction. Yeah. And so

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the idea being like, you've got these unimportant tasks, kind of important

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tasks and really important tasks, and what ends up happening for most people,

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myself included, unless I'm being focused on this, is that your jar

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fills up with sand and sand being meetings,

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emails, scrolling, LinkedIn,

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mindlessly flipping through the 18 tabs that are on your

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browser because they're there and they must be important. And now I got to check

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this, and I got to check that. I bet if you audited your time,

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because I did this at the beginning of the year, if you audited your time,

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most of your time would be spent on sand. So

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your jar is like three quarters of the full of sand. And then after that

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it might be some pebbles, which are maybe sending emails,

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not replying, but you've got some important stuff you got to reply to send those

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things, writing LinkedIn posts, creating maybe some

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smaller email campaigns that type of stuff, small things, but not

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movers. And then your jar fills up with that. And then at the end of

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the day, you have no time for the big rock moving things,

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the content initiatives you want to move forward, the strategic

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thinking you need to have done, the planning you need to do, all

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the things you actually have to get done. And so for me, it's been

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shifting priorities and actually starting. What I've been doing is

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laying understanding what my big rocks even are for

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a quarter. And this

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really ties into my whole methodology around cornerstone content, core content

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and cut content, which is like, if you don't get your big rock

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right, the stuff coming off of it at the bottom will not matter

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or you're not going to have time for it or any of those things. So

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if you don't have time to record the podcast, to write the blog

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post, to write the newsletter, all the rest of the stuff starts

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to fall apart and then you lose consistency. You don't

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have room for that. So what I've done is I've actually said like, these are

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my big rocks every single week from a content perspective. Just as

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example, let's say it's podcast, it's

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newsletter. Like, if I ever talk about those are the big rocks and then those

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get scheduled out on the calendar. So podcast is going

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out here, newsletter is going out here, and then I can work back the schedule

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on when I want to create those pieces of content. Pebbles also

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get scheduled. I've got to write the promo email that goes out. I've got

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to send the promo email that goes out. I've got to be able to write

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those things. I got to be able to write the social content, make sure the

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clips are organized, those things get scheduled out and then sand,

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that's just kind of like time blocking that to a different part of the

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day where I'm not feeling like I have to come into the day,

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check all my email, get email done. Because that's the problem is when you start

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your day with sand, you never get to your big rocks. Yeah, absolutely. I mean,

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I agree with everything you said. I think you really explained the

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concept well. I have a few kind of builds

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on the concept that I'm realizing for me. I don't know if I'm comfortable saying

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that these are like universal, but I will speak on what I

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have noticed personally, which is the big rocks. So

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part of the thing that I had to understand was the big rocks alone

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are enough, or maybe not everything you want it to

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be. But a jar filled to the top with pebbles and sand

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is not nearly as powerful as just the four big

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rocks in the jar with all that empty space. Because you did the things that

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mattered. Right. Big things, important things that

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you've already said. These are big things and important things.

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Yeah. And I think when SaaS companies do this really badly

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in a lot of cases, but I can also say I do this not great

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is like you have the big rocks, right? Let's say you have the perfect big

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rocks, you're prioritizing them, but if you come at it from the

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perspective of like the big rock is first and the pebbles are second,

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but it all needs to get done, then you're not actually really the

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way it should be is how long does the big rock need? And then fill

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the remaining time with pebbles. Because if the whole to do list has to get

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done. Yeah, you're putting the order in the right order, but you're not

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prioritizing. It's prioritizing in a way, but it's like only on a

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daily level. You know what I mean? Like what gets done first in the day.

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And so I'm really trying to internalize this concept. I

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heard of we're all juggling these balls, right? You're going

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to drop them. It's not if, it's when, it just

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is. Right. So instead of trying to keep all these balls up in

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the air, which is only going to lead to you losing controls over

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which ones drop and when, because they are going to drop again. This is an

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inevitability. Unless you are just like Tim Ferriss and you have 8 hours of work

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on your schedule for the week. Or on the flip side of this,

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you could basically take control, drop the ones that are rubber. So it's

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this idea of like rubber versus glass balls, right? And

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so the rubber balls, they don't feel good to drop. And that's why I like

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this analogy, because you're still dropping them. It still feels bad,

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but you can pick them up and dust them off and

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get them back in the air and it's fine. But you drop a glass ball

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once and it's done. Right. That

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intro that you offered proactively to

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make for a friend that they've already forgotten about the second they logged off your

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call, that's looming over your head, that's a rubber ball. Oh, yeah. That's

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sand. That's sand. Yeah. I would say it's a rubber ball because I would say

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it's a pebble. Because I think it's really important to keep your word and to

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be connecting people. Maybe it's a small pebble, but my point is,

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you can make that intro in three weeks. Well, they'd be stoked, right? Because

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they forgot. And now you're coming out of nowhere and making this introduction. They're

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stoked. They don't care about the timing. But if you start missing

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distribution first meetings with guests,

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and start to develop a reputation that you don't show up, that's a

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glass ball. And the way this is showing up for me personally as a consultant

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right now is everything that's internal to me is

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all rubber balls. Because only I will be upset. And

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I'm trying to recognize the glass nature of the balls

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that involve work and relationships with other people, because you only

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have so many shots at the way someone perceives you. And trust is really easily

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broken. Right. And so why am I spending 3 hours

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reorganizing my notion and ten minutes prepping for a call with someone I

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care about? That doesn't balance for me. So

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I think understanding that to get all the big rocks in the jar, all

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the pebbles won't fit, was really important for me. Because

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you just have to be okay with the fact that it's all not going to

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happen. And every company, every company I've talked

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to, I won't even names, because I don't want to get their content marketers in

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trouble. But talking to people that are at these big unicorn

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companies, that all of our CEOs want to be like, it's a mess there

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too. They are just as burned out, if not more. And what those companies do

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well is that they are prioritizing the right fires so that they continue to grow

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in spite of the chaos versus fighting the wrong fires and

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putting all the energy and not growing. But it's still

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chaos. The to do list never ends. There's always more that you could do.

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And so I think that's like one of my big ads of the

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three, another is like the sand. And even, honestly, some of the

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pebbles maybe are like a performance for the other people at

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your job. I read an incredible newsletter article

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a couple weeks ago that I will give to you to put in the show

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notes. And basically, the title of the newsletter is called LaRping your

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job. Justin, do you know what LaRping is? I've heard of it, but yeah.

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Explain. It's an acronym that stands for live action role

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playing. So, like, if you were ever in college, you're, like, on the quad and

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people are fighting with foam swords and stuff like that. Okay. Yeah.

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And so she basically made the case that the digital nature of work

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now and the slack, every conversation you have at work

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now has, like, a record in slack, which makes you want

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to show up and be there more. And you're not in the office to show

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face and have a personality, so you feel even more driven to

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be around. Like, I can speak for myself. I absolutely. At gorgeous,

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we had a pretty active slack culture, and

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we were really good compared to most companies about response times, it was

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actually like you could wait 24 hours and you would not get in trouble to

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get back to someone. Now, they might not be happy, but that was a rule

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that was written in notion, right? That being said, there were

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constantly conversations happening, and I wanted to be there and be a part of them

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and be seen being a part of them. I don't even think I was doing

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it on purpose at the time, but looking back, it's definitely something that was intentional.

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Right. And so her argument is, how much energy and time are we

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wasting doing the performance that's even, like, one level

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deeper than doing the wrong work. That's not doing any work. You're like, tap dancing

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on stage for people you don't even know. And so I

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think that that's something to keep in mind. But the flip side of that one,

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though, is that a lot of times in the past, I at least, and I

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know many others who have done this, too, want to

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designate the work around the work, the getting buy in, the

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managing up, all the meetings as just sand.

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Why are you wasting my time? I could be doing it. And in some cases,

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you may be right. But unfortunately, the work around the work is the work. Getting

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things sold in is the work. You can have the best campaign in the world.

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And if it never goes out, you didn't have the best campaign in the world.

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You had a really cool idea that you couldn't get done. You know what I

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mean? Benjamin Elias has a newsletter called Diamond Pencils

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that genuinely I reach for before Harvard Business Review on

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things like this. And again, because it's a very personal

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POV from Benjamin, who I trust not some random

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byline who happens to have an MBA. Like, cool. Not to

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talk down about HBR, great publication, but in terms of trust

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for me, they may have more credibility, but I trust Benjamin more. Oh, sure.

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That's something I'm trying to really hone in on and even maybe

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make a consulting offer around, is like content marketers are like

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everyone else. No one wants to spend time getting the work done. Everyone wants to

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do the work that they feel like is actually going to drive the results. But

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I think a lot of content marketers are creative at

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heart, and that's why they got into it. And they still have this kind of,

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like, creatives versus suits dichotomy

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and selling in the work and the corporate jockeying and the

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politics. That's just actually work. Culture is

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the work, unfortunately. And so I think we all, and I can speak for

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myself 100%, that was something I could have done better at gorgeous, and

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I could have probably gotten more done if I had been better at explaining the

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why. And then the last thing I will say is, we did retros every quarter

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at gorgeous. I can't speak for every team at gorgeous, but I know that the

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marketing teams, a lot of times it ends up just being a time capsule, showing

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you that you didn't fix things over time and that they just keep happening again

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and again. The reflection is great, but if you don't do anything about it, then

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what's the point of doing it? And so something, again, it comes back to the

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shipping and the experiments and the volume, and that's where volume is a good play,

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even if you're not trying to go for content. Know Alex

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Burkett, who runs on mission digital with his partners. And he's really

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brilliant. He comes from a background in marketing experimentation at CXL, and I've

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been asking him a lot of questions about it recently, and he'll basically

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tell you with nuance, there's obviously ways to do better experiments, but generally,

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the way to do better experiments is to do more of them so you can

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see what works and what doesn't, because you don't know what you don't know until

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you discover it, right? And so

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I do think that we're all trying to find this, like, 80 20

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Pareto perfect balance, but that's the

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whole thing. You don't know it going in, assuming it because of a best

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practice, is also not knowing it, going in,

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doing it for a quarter, getting the feedback that your customers love it,

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and that it presides outsized pipeline, and then

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doing it and doubling down the next quarter. That's the Pareto principle,

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putting all your eggs in one basket because it seems like the best or safest

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option. Like, categorically not the Pareto principle,

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actually, just really not diversifying your

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portfolio of strategies. Yeah. The

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hard thing with that prioritization, because it's hilarious. I've been

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in so many planning meetings where I think this joke might

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even been made at some point in the last decade in a meeting I've been

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in because we used to talk about the big rocks, too, and it's like, there's

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too many big rocks. We have not enough jar and too many rocks. And so

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I think the hardest thing to do is to

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ruthlessly eliminate the things that aren't

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going to move the needle. I can speak from experience at building

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up this business. There are a million things

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that I can do. A million of them. I could go all in on

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YouTube, just in content. I could go all in on YouTube. I could stick with

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the podcast. I could expand out to a different channel. I could try shorts. I

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could try this. I could do that. I could offer a million different types of

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services. I could test this out. And I'm just testing. I'm just testing this

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out over here, right? But everything I do is taking away from something

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else that I'm not going to do over here. And so for me,

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I really start again. It's funny you brought this up because it's so top of

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mind for me because I started the year this way, is like, what are the

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three goals? What are the three things in Q one that I'm going to

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get done? And I have looked at those goals almost

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every single day for the entire quarter. And the funny

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thing about that is I was looking at it yesterday. I've almost completed all of

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them. There's little steps in a couple of them that I haven't finished, but I

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would say 80% of the goals that I set out to do in

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Q one have already been hit. Hell, yeah. So now I'm trying to look and

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I'm trying to figure out, okay, and I will say this, too, they weren't

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necessarily revenue goals or things like that. They were like tangible, actionable

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things that I could measure against. And it was way more helpful for me to

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do that versus just like a random number of something that I was trying to

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hit. And so for me, it's been really cool to do that. And so I'm

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planning on doing the exact same thing in Q two, and I'm going to start

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planning those things out. What are those goals I want to hit. And then the

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key that we didn't talk about is with those big rocks, is

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chunking up the things into smaller milestones

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so you can keep winning and feel like you're making

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progress against that bigger goal. So, for

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example, one of the things I wanted to do in Q, one that I did

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in January, was do a paid training. And so

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with that paid training, I had a whole slew and it was like, I've never

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done this before. It's kind of overwhelming, like, all the things I might need to

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do. So chunk it out. I need to create email series. I need to create

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the deck. I need to create the topic. I need to send it out. I

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need to do the post show, send to the group and give

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them the replay. I need to house it up on here so that somebody can

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get it after the fact. And by having those things chunked out, it made it

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so much more approachable and so much more easy to be like, oh, okay, this

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week I'm going to work on this chunk of this big rock,

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and from there, it allows you to build and make progress.

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Yeah. And, I mean, retrospective feels like such a

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scary word. And it's called the retrospective

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prime directive. I think I found it in someone's blog. I'll try to find it

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so we can source it. But I put it at the top of every one

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of my retros with my team because it's basically like,

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we are all going to agree going into this, that we're going to look back

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critically, but that everyone was doing their best with what they had at

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the time. You have to be honest, and if you feel like you're going to

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hurt someone's feelings, you can't be honest. And so I think that's important. But

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in terms of milestones, I think you're totally right. And something I'm trying to do

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for myself is start up and shut down. It's like five minutes at beginning, end

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of the day, every day, and then like a weekly review, maybe a monthly review,

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but definitely a quarterly review. And again, retrospective puts all

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this weight on it. It's a check in with yourself. You're looking back and you're

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saying, I want to be intentional and aware of what happened

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because it's so easy to just barrel into the next quarter and let all

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of that kind of straight over your head.

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And I think that you need to do both because

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what I found at gorgeous is like, you're at the end of the quarter, you're

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grabbing all of these things that you can't even remember doing because it was two

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months ago and you feel like it's been a year and you're trying to find

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the slack conversation to describe what happened. Yes, there's value in doing

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the long term look back over three months with distance, but a if you're

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not doing the smaller check ins over time,

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you're coming at that perspective like almost too blind. Looking

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back, you've actually let it fully leave your field of

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vision and brain. But also you are not

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getting that real time view from when it happened to

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look at. Also because you can look back in three

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months and get a worse perspective on something that happened. Like distance

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is not always a good thing. You know what I mean? It's good when you

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have all of the checkpoints to then compare against,

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and then you can kind of go back and forth, but generally you don't want

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to just look back every three months. And so I think at the end of

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the day, this is something everyone struggles with. I do think that there is

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like a certain performance in new content, new

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bylines, all of these things that make it harder to refresh,

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repurpose, distribute, do all the things with the content that is already

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ranking, that is already converting, that you know is the proto principle because it's one

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of your content power law whales.

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And at the end of the day, it's like the two breakdowns I think,

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is if you are having trouble prioritizing

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and you're doing too much, to me, the two places where it breaks down is

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either you don't understand the program or the data, or the feedback

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loops well enough to know what should be prioritized, or you do

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and your boss doesn't, and your shortcoming is more on the side of

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you can't sell it in, you can't convince them that what you know to be

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true is true. Right? And that's not to put everything on the direct report

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or the content person, but you can only control that side.

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So that's something I'm trying to be more conscious of even in

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consulting. In what way could I have done this better? And

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it's usually one of those two ways. It's like either I didn't know the

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story well enough or I didn't sell it well enough.

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Yeah, yeah, that's kind of what it comes down to. And at the end of

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the day, you have to have that story, whether you're going to be or that

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system or whatever you're going to be executing on. To know those

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priorities, you have to know what you're going after. And then you have to know,

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how the heck do I pitch this up and make sure that that's something that

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we can actually execute on and tell that story and all that stuff. So yeah,

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Ryan, we will have to have you back at some point to chat about maybe

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some more content specific things, but this was a super fun conversation on

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mentality, on mindset shift, on trying to weigh out what the heck to

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do. And it was a blast, man. Thanks for coming on. Thanks for having me.

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All right, I hope you enjoyed this episode of Distribution

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first, and thank you for listening all the way through. I appreciate you

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so, so much and I hope you're able to apply what you learned in

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this episode one way or another, into your content strategy as

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well. Speaking of strategy, we have a lot of things going on this year that

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are going to help you build your brand ten x your content and transform

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the way you do content marketing. Make sure to subscribe to the show and sign

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up for my newsletter at Justinsimon Co. So you don't miss

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a thing. I look forward to serving you in the next episode as well. And

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until then, take care and I'll see you next time.