What’s Obvious to You?

Warning: this content is older than 365 days. It may be out of date and no longer relevant.

Other posts in the series:

When C.C. Chapman and I were writing our book Content Rules, I kept asking him, “Does this have any value?” “Isn’t this stuff that everyone already knows?” And ultimately, “Isn’t this obvious?”

Well guess what? It wasn’t obvious. And thousands of book sales and tons of positive reviews later, I finally grok that.

Derek Sivers, the founder of CD Baby, calls this “Obvious to You. Amazing to Others.” In a video he released the other day, based on an earlier blog post, he says, “Any creator of anything knows this feeling: You experience someone else’s innovative work. It’s beautiful, brilliant, breath-taking. You’re stunned…..

“Afterwards, you think, ‘My ideas are so obvious. I’ll never be as inventive as that.’”

But in his own work, Sivers discovered something surprisingly profound, he says, “Everybody’s ideas seem obvious to them.” Great musicians or artists struggle with this too. But the key is to rememeber one thing: What’s obvious to you is amazing to someone else.

Why is it that we are terrible judges of our own creative value? It’s because we stand too close to our own selves. It’s impossible to maintain any perspective; our purview is inherently limited.

I see this all the time when I talk to companies about the content they are producing as part of their business: They think that their blog post ideas are silly, or ridiculous, or so painfully obvious that it’s not worth talking about, because their customers already know whatever it is that they consider sharing. (Hint: No, they don’t.)

That lack of perspective limits companies in other ways, too, when they rely on insider-y language, corporate-ese or “Frankenspeak” (as we call it in Content Rules) to get their messages across. They forget that the language they use inside their industries or companies isn’t the most effective language with which to communicate with customers. Again, they’re standing too close.

So what about you: Are you holding back something that seems too obvious to share? How do you try to gain perspective on your own work?

Hat tip to C.C. for the video.

What’s Obvious to You? 1Ann Handley is the Chief Content Officer of MarketingProfs and the co-author of Content Rules. People seem to like her writing. She’s a huge deal on Twitter, a point which might make her family proud, if only they knew what that meant.


3 responses to “What’s Obvious to You?”

  1.  Avatar

    Spot on! Something we should tell others on a more regular basis. Wonder how many brilliant ideas went by the wayside because they were considered obvious.

  2. Great post Ann! I struggle with this all the time. I get asked to speak at events or groups and I always think everyone already knows what I’m going to talk about. Then you see people taking notes or I get responses saying they learned so much. Keep it up, great job!

  3. Ann: Yes! And thank you for this post.

    To gain perspective, occasionally I will do some individual coaching, as it connects me to the process I went through to learn everything and makes me realize that even though I might make it look easy, most of what I do for clients is not as easy as it looks. Also, as you know from writing the book, there’s no better way to anchor in knowledge (and lock in confidence in expertise) than to have to teach it to someone else!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This