There’s usually a narrow gap separating winners from people who give up and go home early. If I had to label that gap, I’d call it mindset, and it’s critical when we’re talking about building your platform.
When I was in ninth grade I broke my right elbow. Living with the cast would have been frustrating under any circumstance, but I had just started taking guitar lessons. It’s hard enough memorizing chords and running scales, but I had to do it with a big piece of plaster on my arm.
As tough as the physical challenge was, the mental battles were more significant. It took a mindset of focus and determination to succeed. And I think that’s true for anything in life that really matters.
Let’s face it: Building a platform can be daunting. The competition is tough, the field is packed, and finding your audience sometimes feels impossible. But when things are stacked against us, it’s the right mindset that makes all the difference.
In my experience of helping people build their platforms, and building one myself, all of this usually plays out in three mental battles. If you’re facing any one of these, you’re not alone.
1. “I Don’t Have Time for This”
Chances are you’re working on your platform while you’re working a full-time job, and the lack of time is a major challenge. But time is not just about available hours and minutes. It’s about how we approach the time we have.
I’ve written before about how to blog if you don’t have time and the power of the minimum effective dose. But at the core of these and other productivity hacks are two elements crucial for this mental battle:
- Creativity in your approach.
- Clarity about the essentials.
Unlike time, our creativity can expand to address our challenges. That’s why Julian Simon called human imagination “the ultimate resource.”
But we also have to be clear on the nature of our particular challenges to put our creativity to work, and that means clarity about the essentials. The main obstacle most of us face in building our platforms isn’t too little time, it’s trying to do too much of the wrong things. The combination of creativity and clarity can turn that around.
2. “I Don’t Know How to Do This”
Technology makes building a platform easier now than ever. But it’s still hard work, and there’s a steep learning curve that can foster a lot of self doubt and frustration.
I faced the very same thing. I had to create, execute, market, manage—everything. I had a full-time job and family to take care of, and I didn’t have a team I could rely on. How was I going to master all of this? But like learning guitar with a cast on my arm, I was determined to succeed whatever the difficulty.
For me the key to this mental battle is in harnessing the power of incremental progress. We don’t have to learn it all at once; in fact, we can’t. But if we intentionally build on our learning, over time we’ll have what we need to win.
As part of that learning process, it’s important to find people who have been there and done it already. You don’t have to have a team of direct reports to build or join a community of likeminded platform builders. Nothing teaches like experience, and we can learn a lot from someone else’s mistakes and successes while getting the encouragement we need to keep plugging away.
3. “I Don’t Have What It Takes”
This is the toughest mental battle we face. How many times have we watched a message fall flat, dealt with harsh criticism in the comments, or seen our traffic or subscriptions go down? If we’re honest, these things can really shake our confidence.
It’s natural that we would have such strong reactions to bad news when building our platforms. We are the most vulnerable about the things that matters most to us. And when we’re the most vulnerable we’re more apt to magnify our setbacks.
The key to this mental battle is persistence. Only time will tell, and quitting before the whistle blows just cheats ourselves and others.
Effective persistence requires creativity, clarity about our essentials, and belief in incremental progress, but it also requires courage. There’s no magic formula for courage, but it pays to find people who believe in you and who can speak encouragement into your life when the doubts come.
You Can Succeed
Sitting there on the stool with my instrument and broken elbow, I had every reason to quit—except I really wanted to play the guitar! My determination drove a mindset that overcame my physical limitations, and that same determination has helped me through mental battles like these.
Most people who set out to build a platform don’t succeed. Why? Many don’t learn and apply the basics of platform building. The rest usually lose one of these three mental battles. But there’s no reason to let that stop you.
What do you really want? There’s no guarantee of success, but you can always improve your odds. And winning these three mental battles will give you the best chance possible.