“The thinking that got you here won’t get you there.” – Benjamin Hardy
As a former self-taught homeschooler, an Unbounder, and now, a self-employed realtor and aspiring author, I know what it means to go it alone. I know what it feels like to set a goal and then work my butt off to achieve it. But now I’m finding that hard work isn’t enough.
Self-motivated determination will only get you so far. It will kickstart your business, fuel the initial stages of your creative project, and give you the courage to make the leap into the risky unknown, but it isn’t enough to get you to the Jeff Bezos, J.K. Rowling, or Richard Branson level of success. No, for that, you need to level-up. It’s only once you tap into the power of community that such success becomes a possibility. How do you do that? I’m glad you asked.
1. LEARN UNASHAMEDLY
I’m awesome at faking it ‘til I make it. Especially in the world of real estate, I have so much to learn. Every time I sell a home, I work with a Home Inspector. Home Inspectors come in all shapes and sizes, but typically, they’re middle-aged contractors who can talk your ears off about shingles, joists, galvanized pipes, and GFCI outlets. They’re a wealth of information, but at the end of the day, they’re engineer types.
And I always feel stupid when I talk to engineer types.
They talk like you know the lingo, assuming that when they use their fancy technical terms, it would be against your manhood to do anything other than nod, grunt affirmatively, and pretend you know exactly what they’re talking about. This is the route I usually take. I don’t want to look ignorant – especially in front of my clients.
But I have a friend who never takes the easy route. In a situation like this one, they will simply look that Home Inspector in the face and ask, “What does that mean?”
Instead of bursting out in boisterous indignant laughter, the Home Inspector simply explains what they meant when they said “efflorescence.” And guess what? My friend learns something new. Now the next time they hear the term, they’ll know what it means. They’ll be a more knowledgeable, better-equipped realtor who is capable of offering better-informed advice to their clients and can approach their work with more confidence.
Unashamed learning hardly ever gets you into trouble. You don’t know what you don’t know, and being honest about that is what’s going to get you ahead. While faking it ’til you make it makes you look impressive, it undermines not only your learning process, but your confidence, too, because you know the truth about yourself no matter what you’ve led everyone else to think.
Admit it when you don’t know something. Ask questions. Then the knowledge and expertise of strangers can easily become your own.
2. TEACH WHAT YOU KNOW
To be clear, just because you’re avoiding faking it ’til you make it doesn’t mean you can’t still teach. In fact, quite conversely, when you’re honestly and purposefully pursuing knowledge and experience, you have a duty to pass along what you’ve learned to others. Not only does it benefit those you teach, but it benefits yourself as well.
It’s been said that there’s no better way to truly learn something than to teach it.Teaching requires you to recall what it is you’ve learned, to synthesize your experiences, and to further familiarize yourself with the subject matter so you’re better equipped to answer questions others might have.
But if you’re new to an industry, still figuring things out, or generally feeling more like a novice than an expert, how can you teach confidently without faking it? Where do you start?
You start by teaching what you know.
When I was hammering out the first draft of my very first novel last year, I knew I was worse than a novice. I was and still am a total beginner in the world of fiction writing, but I still make time to type up a quick blog post every once in a while to teach what I’ve learned most recently.
Why? Certainly not because I have a huge following who is dying to know what I’m learning as an inexperienced wannabe writer, but because the habit of teaching inspires the habit of learning, and it builds a community of generosity.
3. BE GENEROUS
In most competitive industries, it’s us against them, right? If someone buys a house with the other guy, it means they didn’t buy a house with me. If they buy someone else’s book, it means they have less money with which to buy mine. It’s a dog-eat-dog world, we’re told, but is that really the case?
What would happen if we not only taught what we knew but gave away our secrets?
You know how it is. There’s the information that’s easy to give away, and then there’s the information you’d kill to protect. It’s that really good idea you’ve got, that truly original plot. You would rather it die with you than be stolen from you, copied, or plagiarized.
Yep, that’s the one – the one you give away. For free.
Tim Ferriss is famous for this. He gives away the secrets of his wildly popular podcast, saying he only stands to gain from doing so. He argues that, by by giving away his secrets, he is providing value to his listeners at very little cost to himself. There will be those who try to copy him – even to steal his ideas with malicious intent – but this is the extreme minority of his listeners. Furthermore, of this already small number of people, he knows that even fewer of them will be able to actually execute and make a better podcast than he’s got. In the end, it’s a win for Tim.
Most importantly, it creates a culture of learning, growth, and open sharing. In such cultures, competitors learn from one another, and this learning ultimately raises everybody’s game. And it’s industry-changing power like that that can truly change the world.
So how can you start learning unashamedly, teaching what you know, and giving away your secrets in order to level-up? It’s pretty easy. Take a colleague or competitor out to coffee and try to fit all three of these into your conversation. Let them teach you what they know, tell them what you know, and give them one of your secrets or best practices and see what happens.
While there are plenty of other ways you can do this within your current network and spheres of influence, the Unbound Guilds could actually be a good place to practice, too. They’re designed to help you level-up in your industry or interest by providing the culture and the place to raise the game. But it’s up to you to bring the conversation, ideas, questions, and experience necessary to truly make it a community. If you do, I’d be willing to bet great things will happen.