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Having a Point of View: The Secret of Every Successful Creative

In a recent interview with Ramit Sethi, he said his about having a point of view

I think one of the rarest things on earth is to meet somebody who has a point of view.

Do you ever look at a creative person's work and think:

Why does this person have such a big following?

He's less talented than many other people I know

What's so great about it?

I could do that so much better

A few years ago, I was having a conversation with my friend Erika Lyremark and she taught me the most important but often overlooked aspect of building an audience for your art and standing out in a noisy world.

Erika: When I talk to you offline, you're incredibly opinionated. But when it comes to the way you interact with your audience, you're not.

Me: Really?

Erika: Yes – and it's holding you back.

Even though I had some very strong opinions, I wasn't willing to express them because I was afraid to offend people. But as Justine Musk says, "If you have a bold and compelling point of view, it will piss people off."

Having a Point of View- The Secret of Every Successful Creative

having a point of view
Photographer: Jason Rosewell | Source: Unsplash

Look at cultural icons throughout history, artists whose work has reached millions of people, or people who built huge audiences on the internet. They all have a bold and compelling point of view.

  • Seth Godin: Never accept the status quo
  • Chris Guillebeau: You don't have to live a conventional life
  • Tim Ferriss: It doesn't make any sense to wait until you're old to really enjoy your life

While I was writing this article, I noticed that having a point of view was the common thread of my most popular content.

If you read the comments in these articles, you'll come across people who vehemently disagree with me. That's a good thing. Nothing original emerges from repeating and agreeing with what somebody has already said.

What Having a Point of View Means

Male silhouette over a lake
Photographer: Steve Halama | Source: Unsplash

Having a point of view means saying what's on your mind, risking that it will offend people. It means you don't hold back on expressing your beliefs because other people disagree with them.

Poking Sacred Cows in a Mimicry Epidemic

Hands down the stupidest thing I've ever heard that's come out of the blogosphere is, "Everybody should start a podcast." I'm not saying that because I host a podcast. But it's an opinion I'm willing to express.

This is the equivalent of saying that we should all wear the same shoe size. There's nothing that EVERYBODY should do. Start a podcast because you want to, not because some "influencer" says everybody should.

Just remember, the moment everybody is doing something, it's far less likely to make you stand out in a sea of noise.

Anytime you mimic someone else's way of doing things, you not only perpetuate a mimicry epidemic, you rob the world of your unique contributions.

Having a point of view is not a license to be an asshole. But people will think you are one and you need to get comfortable with that. Some people have called my work a gift to the world and others have called it a disservice to humanity.

Emotional resonance and polarization are inseparable. You can't have one without the other.

Why Having a Point of View Matters

Because we can go from idea to execution in a matter of minutes, the internet is a sea of noise. Standing out is critical to the survival of any brand, business, or creator.

Whether you love him or hate him, Donald Trump cut through the noise with his point of view. He drowned out the voices of his rivals in the 2016 election. Think about how many times during his presidency the media has replayed some of the most awful things he's said.

If you can't cut through the noise, you won't survive.

3 Key Ingredients for Having a Point of View

1. It's Bold

If your point of view is truly bold, people will disagree with it. If nobody disagrees with your point of view, it's not bold enough. Reaching someone who disagrees with you is a sign of traction.

2. It's Compelling

When your point of view is compelling, other people believe in it. They recruit like-minded people to join your tribe, buy your products and help you spread your message.

3. It Elicits an Emotional Response

It doesn't matter whether that response is positive or negative. A point of view that inspires anger can lead to positive change. When enough citizens get angry with the way their governments treat them, revolutions ensue.

Discovering Your Point of view

Passion follows engagement and having a point of view follows self-expression. It's hard to know what your point of view is unless you express your ideas.

One of my first freelance writing gigs was for Mark Schaefer's blog GROW. I'm eternally grateful to him because he gave me an opportunity to build my chops as a writer and use the content I wrote for him in my first self-published book. But as I started having a more bold point of view, we disagreed on my ideas.

I didn't give a shit about online marketing or blogging and his readers did. When he suggested it might be time for us to part ways, I agreed. And we did so on good terms.

All the work I did for Mark's blog helped me to discover my point of view. It eventually led to my point of view that only is better than best.

You can start to discover your point of view by asking the right questions.

1. What makes you angry?

"It is a truism that many who join a rising revolutionary movement are attracted by the prospect of a sudden and spectacular change in their conditions of life. A revolutionary movement is a conspicuous instrument of change." – Eric Hoffer, True Believer

Tara McMullin says that there's great creative potential in the things that make you angry. Think about how many revolutions, movements and ideas came to life because someone was willing to channel their anger.

The thing that made me angry was the mimicry epidemic I kept seeing everywhere on the internet. People kept seeing something that worked for others and assuming it would work for them. Not only did they overlook a blatantly obvious variable that throws off every formula for success, they denied the world their unique gifts.

2. What do you frequently think but are afraid to say?

This doesn't mean you blurt out every thought that comes into mind without filters. That's a PR crisis in the making. A point of view is about discernment. You have to decide what's appropriate for public consumption and what's not.

3. Who Do You Disagree With and Vice Versa

You must find people who are going to inject new energy into your life. Because if you keep having the same conversations with the same people, year after year, your energy is going to stagnate. Your ideas are going to get stale. Your movement is going to get to get stuck. – 50 Cent, Hustle Harder

One of the dangers of consuming content on the internet is that algorithms confirm our existing beliefs. When we don't expose ourselves to different points of view, it's much harder to have one of our own.

Until 2013, I didn't even know who Glenn Beck was. As a liberal Berkeley undergrad, my dream media appearance was The Daily Show. But Glenn found my book on Amazon and sent me a personal email.

Most of the people in my audience hated him. But I decided not to do any research on him before meeting him. That way I could avoid preconceived biases.

I knew that we probably disagreed on many things. But if you engage with people you disagree with, you'll not only learn a lot about yourself, you might find common ground with the most misunderstood man in the world.

4. What Resonates With You?

My friend and creative collaborator of many years, Mars Dorian, has a unique style. In one of our interviews he said, "When I create something, I want it to be so distinctive that I don't have to put my signature on it. People know it's mine."

The idea resonated with me so much that I built my business around that point of view.

As you answer each of these questions, you'll find that patterns emerge and dots connect. But discovering your point of view isn't a life hack. The point of the questions above isn't to come up with immediate answers.

You need to reflect on them and express your answers to them until you find clarity. That will take time.

Having a point of view means you zig when other people zag. You're willing to poke a sacred cow, piss people off and say what's on your mind. People with a point of view set an example to follow. People without one follow examples that other people set.

Having a point of view didn't start on the internet. The internet just amplified the importance of having one.

Throughout history, people with a point of view have started revolutions, initiated political movements and built companies that changed the world. If you want to change the world, start by having a point of view.

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