The Quest for Meaning

Last night I paused a film to get a glass of water. When I returned to the sofa my girlfriend was thumbing through a story on her iPhone: “Camel Kills Man Over Can of Coke”.

She couldn’t be alone for 30 seconds.

Today, the universe’s overriding purpose is to fill every gap in attention that remains in your waking life. Every moment is an opportunity for you to consume information, to fill your mental space with more ’content’.

Queuing for your lunch? Waiting for a bus? That’s now screen time. We reach for our smartphones 150 times a day – once every six minutes. Having a break means reading “28 Totally Normal Things That Can Kill You” on Buzzfeed.

People are overwhelmed.

However – this is not a problem. It’s a huge opportunity. It’s an opportunity because while the content industry is in a race to the bottom, people are desperate for meaningful ideas that resonate with them.

The Quest for Meaning

Next time you visit the cinema, sit in the front row, right up against the wall. If you turn round, you can watch the audience watching the film. You can see their eyebrows raise, their jaws drop, their bodies tense and relax. You can see people going through a range of emotions. The story they’re seeing on the screen has their deep attention. They’re tuned in.

I’m going to help you open a kind of cinema of your own.

The stories you’ll project will be tailored completely to one type of person: the ‘industry audience’ you’re trying to reach.

Think of all the people you need to reach in order to succeed. Who are the leaders, the buyers, the senior ministers you need to bond with to achieve what you’ve said that you’re going to do?

There might be 10 of them or there might be 10,000 of them. I don’t know. What I do know is that a good deal of them don’t know you. Some of them might have heard of you or your company. You might have met a few of them. But as things stand right now, they don’t think about you very often.

“Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future”

In life, it’s important to surround yourself with the right people. There’s this theory that you’ll always be the average of the people that you hang out with the most. You will have the same sort of income, the same sort of lifestyle and the same sort of beliefs.

(Although if that was true I’d be six years old, three feet high and female.)

The same is true when it comes to your audience.

Your success will be defined by the quality of the people who hear from you regularly.

Do you think it would be beneficial if you had a pool of influential people in your industry who heard from you on a regular basis? Do you think it would be helpful if, around your industry, there were a good number of people harbouring the opinion that you ware:

  • An expert in your field
  • An ally, firmly on their side
  • Somebody who’s worth listening to

I’ve done that. I believe you can do it too.

Building an audience is the fastest way to become ‘industry famous’

Sometimes I go to events in my industry. In the buffet queue, people sometimes spy my name badge. One woman I’d never met said to me: “Are you the Ian Harris?”

That’s right – I am the Ian Harris. I’m famous – admittedly only to a few thousand people in a very specific niche industry. It’s not George Clooney fame, but it’s just as good for me because that’s the exact audience I’m targeting.

I became ‘the Ian Harris’ in a very unremarkable way. Every week (more or less) I communicate with many of the busy, cynical, in-demand folk in my industry through a simple email newsletter. Nothing out-of-the-ordinary about that.

What is remarkable is what I put in that newsletter.

Sometimes it teaches, persuades and entertains. It makes them feel thankful, angry, and jealous. It pushes certain ‘buttons’ that I know my audience is sensitive to, so there are moments when they sit bolt-upright, leaning closer into the screen – just like the audience in the cinema.

I’m not some extrovert who loves rocking the boat. I’m plucking the same storytelling strings every TV show and movie does, but it’s many times powerful because I’m doing it to something my audience is deeply close to – their industry.

For my audience of thoughtful, busy people this sort of thing is very unusual. And that’s exactly why it works.

And even though I never really promote or sell anything, even though I never talk about myself or my company, almost every time I send an email out one or two people reply back wanting to spend money with me.

It’s quite remarkable.

Being ‘industry famous’ won’t get you in Hello magazine, or in the society pages of Tatler. But it can make you wealthy and influential. (There’s a reason it’s ‘rich and famous’, and not the other way round.)

I’ve done this in my industry, and I can show you how to do the same in yours.

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