Nike is only half right. “Just do it” works until we need to “Just quit it.” Only the quitting part seems harder that the doing part. I had the privilege of hearing Bob Goff speak speak a few years ago.
If you’re not familiar with Bob (and I wasn’t before this conference), he is an attorney with a sense of humor. Impressive! (Those are rare by the way. And, of course, my apologies to my attorney. I do appreciate you.)
One of the things Bob said that stuck with me was he quits something every Thursday. It might be big or small. He went on to explain how he has brought this discipline to his legal practice. Everyone in his law firm is on an annual contract. Every year they decide whether or not they want to continue practicing law, working together, and working with the same clients.
The discipline of quitting creates the freedom to create meaningful content.
I was struck by the freedom that such a discipline provides. Many people launch something new for a variety of reasons. But somewhere in building of a business, growing a cause, or even doubling-down on a personal goal, you get stuck in a routine. Over time, you stop thinking critically about why you’re doing it, what you’re doing, and how you’re doing it. Eventually, it creeps into your content and your readers will lose interest.
Bob’s weekly discipline has implications for those of us who are responsible for organizational communication, content marketing, branding, etc. Whether you’re a church, nonprofit, or for-profit enterprise, you were more aware of your messaging and communication habits early in the launch phase than you are now. In many ways, the acts of message-making and communicating with others has become a routine that involves little more than the ordinary and expected.
Creating messages that matter—and move people to action—require that we stop simply checking boxes and get back to the basics.
- Do you know who you’re talking to?
- Can you identify their (not your) native content consumption habits?
- Do you know what questions they’re asking?
- Can you speak with authority and as someone with a genuine interest in the subject matter?
- Do you know what response you want to elicit?
- Are you sure that the messages you’re creating are consistent with who you are—and not who you want to be?
I don’t believe any content creator intentionally chooses to stop thinking about these things. But life gets busy. Content development and distribution is a relentless game of “endurance”pump and dump." So we cope by just hunkering down and getting it done. The only problem is we may need to stop getting it done long enough to be sure we’re getting the right things done.
If you’re not willing to quit, rebuild, or—at the very least—rethink your approach to your work, maybe you need to ask yourself if you are in the communications game to secure a transaction or to engage a core audience so you can resource them to create meaningful change in the world.
If you’re honest, you probably need to quit a lot of things. It may even be appropriate to quit everything and start over.
A book I would highly recommend you read is Henry Clouds, Necessary Endings. There are few books I’ve read more than once. This is one I keep coming back to from time to time. I’ve even used it as a part of a team training experience.
The premise of the book is that life mirrors nature. You have to prune back good things to allow for even better things to expand. Cloud believes that humans have limited resources. (Scandalous. I know.) So the ones who will really pull ahead and achieve great things aren’t the ones who try to do everything. On the contrary, people who break out and pull ahead are the ones who are disciplined enough to stop doing good things to ensure they can focus their attention, time, and energy on the best, most enduring, productive, and profitable activities.
The same is true for organizations when it comes to content. More content is rarely the best strategy. Simply writing more words won’t make more people engage with you, your brand, or your cause. And we all know that more words won’t fix a bad book idea or one that is poorly written.
More is not better. More is just more.
Producing content that will inspire movement and ignite change will require you to quit doing things that worked last year, conflict with your personal preferences, and create uncomfortable conversation to navigate. You may need to stop blogging, kill that email feed, or rebuild your website from scratch. But those are the very conditions that produce new growth, unprecedented success, and opens you to new possibilities.
What do you need to quit doing today? List three things right now. I bet you don’t have to think very long or hard to come up with that list.
Now, quit. Do this again ... next week … and the next.
If you’re disciplined—and brave—enough to practice this regularly, one day you might actually get to focus on creating content around the things that matter. Better, you’ll see how your blood, sweat, and tears, created a level of momentum and engagement for your brand, business, or cause no one was expecting nor could have anticipated.
Come on! It’s quitting time.
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