Nov 15, 2016

Learn In Public: How to be a Thought Leader

The most compelling thought leaders learn in public.

It’s a bit of a misnomer that thought leaders start out as experts. It may seem like Seth Godin, Dan Pink, or Tim Ferriss started out as experts before they built their platforms. But that’s not really the case. These thought leaders built their platform and their expertise concurrently.

Tim Ferriss is the classic example. He calls himself a “human guinea pig,” and he is constantly experimenting and testing ideas. He is public about his fitness regimes, investing practices, and how he developed a podcast with over 100 million downloads.

Tim talks about what works and what doesn’t work, and he learns in public. That makes him such a compelling thought leader.

You can do the same thing. Pick a topic that you want to master, and create content while you learn. You will be shocked by how many people want to learn with you.

Learning Creates Compelling Content

Learning is intoxicating. You get hits of endorphins as you make discoveries and master new skills. This is what makes learning so much fun.

Harness your learning high. It doesn’t last very long. An aha moment may only last a few days, and then converts into your base of knowledge.

The key is to create content while you’re still experiencing a learner’s high.

Content created during the learner’s high is infectious. People can feel your enthusiasm. They see how your knowledge is expanding, and how you’re applying the new skills. That’s fun to be apart of. It’s fun to share in someone else’s discoveries.

Translate Ideas in Context

Sitting through a lecture is boring.

I still get sleepy thinking back to economics 101. The professor knew his formulas and equations, but he droned on about them. He was deeply committed to educating his students, but the content wasn’t interesting for him anymore. He had mastered it.

Learning from the masters can be very useful, but it’s equally helpful to learn with your peers.

You can learn so much by following someone who is developing an idea. You can see how their thought processes evolve, and you can learn from their mistakes and iterations. That public learning can often reveal much more than the tight lessons of a master.

Give your audience an opportunity to learn alongside you. Let them experience the creative process. They may be going through a similar journey.

You’ll Never Experience Writer’s Block

You’ll never run out of things to say when you learn in public.

I am frequently asked, “How do you know what to write about each week?” The answer is simple, “Whatever I am working on.”

Learning in public takes the pressure off of you. Rather than trying to find the next lesson or the next pearl of wisdom, you can explore what you are learning:

  • You’re latest aha moment.
  • An area that you are struggling with and can’t find an answer.
  • How you solved a challenging problem.
  • What you wish you knew before you started.
  • How you measure performance.

The well is deep when you are willing to be transparent.

What Do You Want to Learn?

You will often hear an author say, “I wanted to learn about this topic, so I wrote the book.”

You can do the exact same thing with your platform. What do you want to learn? What do you want to master?

Choose a topic that you think will be relevant with your audience, and then dive into it. Learn everything you can. Try everything you can. Experiment and test ideas. Measure your performance. See what works, and doesn’t work.

Create content while you are learning. By learning in public you will form a bond with your audience, and they will perceive you as the expert, especially because they were allowed to participate in the journey.

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