How To Be The Best In The World Header

Average Is For Losers: How To Be The Best In The World

You know the feeling. You’re watching a Youtube video or reading a book, and in a sudden moment of clarity, you realize you just heard the truth.

Of course you agree, but it also forces you to admit something, because it’s not just any truth – it’s an ugly truth.

Not ugly in general. Ugly for you, because you’re not living in alignment with it. Over the past few days, I’ve had plenty of these moments.

Most of them came from reading The Dip by Seth Godin. If I could recommend just one book for you to read, this would be it. That means something, coming from someone who’s written over 365 book summaries in 2016.

His words are still ringing in my ears.

“Mediocrity is for losers.”

And then he explained how to be the best in the world.

It’s powerful when you hear it. It’s even more convincing once he explains why being average is for losers. Here, have a listen:

Google is a great example, but it doesn’t show you how big the gap between being number one and being average really is. Even being second might not be worth your while.

For example, 37% of all pizzas ordered are plain cheese. If pepperoni comes in at number two, and makes up another 30% of all orders of pizzas with toppings, that’s still just 18.9% of all orders – so just about half the sales of plain cheese pizzas.

The same with ice cream. Vanilla is the most popular flavor in the world. Number two, chocolate, comes in at around 8%, less than a third…and it just gets worse from there (good luck “Cookies ‘n’ cream”).

How To Be The Best In The World At Ice Cream

(Image taken from Seth’s blog)

Why is this exciting to learn, yet painful to listen to? For me, it’s because it made me realize something important.

This blog is average…and so am I

When I look back on the past 18 months, I see a lot of good things, but no great things. Why is that?

  1. It takes longer than 18 months to build something great.
  2. It’s impossible to build something great when you’re working on 18 things at a time.

When I say “a lot of good things” the emphasis is on a lot.

Here’s a short excerpt of the things I’ve done (feel free to skim or skip):

  • Took an email list building course and got my first 1,000 email subscribers by:
    • Running 3 giveaways, 1 exclusively on Facebook
    • Writing 10 massive blog posts with content upgrades
    • Guest blogging on half a dozen high profile blogs
    • Scoring several number 1 rankings with SEO
    • Hosting 3 webinars with great co-hosts
    • Getting on Lifehacker, Lifehack.org and Elite Daily
  • Started to coach on coach.me and building that business to a consistent $1,000/month over 12 months
  • Opened my own translating & freelance writing business, working my way up all the way from 15 €/hr to 50 €/hr and beyond by:
    • Ghostwriting for a top 10 online marketing blog in the world
    • Interpreting live at international meetings, going back and forth between German to English and English to German
    • Helping a local business completely revamp their corporate identity with new logos, business cards, stationery, a new website, and even a slide deck
    • Creating some of the best online marketing content & web design case studies around (in German)
    • Doing outreach & content marketing for a San Francisco based startup
  • Launched a Patreon campaign, where people now support me and my causes with $84/month
  • Built Four Minute Books, where I publish a book summary every single day, collecting another 1,000 email subscribers in a third of the time it took me before (~60-ish days)
  • Created an Instagram account and took it to 1,000 followers in 11 days

If you just look at that list, without even reading a single point, you can already tell what the consequence must be.

It makes everything I do average work and therefore it makes me average at everything I do.

This blog is average. I’m an average freelancer. I’m settling for mediocrity, when I could actually be great at some of these things. Not all of them and definitely not at once. But I wonder where I would be, had I spent all this energy on just one of the items on that list.

Real winners quit – all the time

On May 2nd 2016, I woke up and didn’t want to get out of bed. There was nothing to look forward to. Just another day of playing a pointless game of catch up (with the things I’d failed to deliver when I was sick in March).

Welcome to the Dip. It’s what lies between starting and becoming the best in the world. It’s the phase where you have to put in more and more effort, without getting anywhere.

The long drought after the initial exhilaration of starting, the failed exam after your Mum’s praised you for deciding to go to law school and the steep downward curve of your blog’s traffic after finally getting published in The Huffington Post.

How To Be The Best In The World Dip

(Image taken from Seth’s blog)

We all have limited time and energy, but if we use all of it, pick the right thing to focus on, then maybe, just maybe, we can make it through the Dip – and become the best in the world.

But that’s assuming you’re just facing a single Dip.

What happened in my case was that instead of me catching up with things, the list above just caught up with me. Not only did I struggle to find the time to work on Four Minute Books or this blog, let alone exercise or grocery shop without feeling rushed, it also became impossible to meet every client’s demands.

I wasn’t facing just one Dip. I was facing a whole bunch of them.

How To Be The Best In The World Multiple Dips

How the hell are you supposed to get through all of these? You can’t. And you shouldn’t.

You have to quit. Even when it’s uncomfortable to do so. Actually, especially when it’s uncomfortable.

Real winners know this. Seth says they quit fast, quit often, and quit without guilt. That makes the ideal scenario one where you quit most things before you even start them. But if you’re stuck in the same quagmire I now find myself in, your only option is to look closely at all of your Dips.

You’ll realize, some aren’t Dips at all. They’re dead ends. Cul-de-Sac, as Seth calls them (French for “dead end”).

How To Be The Best In The World Dead End

A Cul-de-Sac is when you keep working and working, without feeling overly enthusiastic about it, nor getting anywhere.

You know, the job you keep long after you’ve realized you’ve reached the end of the promotion ladder. The volleyball team you keep showing up to practice for, even though you’ve long missed your shot to join the big leagues. The extra projects you took on, where you afterwards seriously ask yourself whether a few extra hundred bucks were worth the stress.

All of a sudden, it’s now my turn to decide what to keep doing and what to quit – and boy, do I have to quit things.

The myth of diversification

Here’s another one of those ugly truths: Unless you’re trying to build a solid stock portfolio, diversification is a myth.

This Facebook post captures it quite well:

How To Be The Best In The World Daniel DiPiazzaEvery big evolution, or rather, revolution, is followed by a major depression among the first few generations that have to live through it. When the Industrial Age began in the early 20th century, people had a lot of trouble dealing with their new riches.

All of a sudden, everyone made a ton more money with the same, or even less work, thanks to the power of machines. But what the hell do you do when you suddenly have more money and way too much time to spend it?

You get depressed.

Alcohol abuse skyrocketed in the 1920’s. It’s what led to the great depression. Oh, and stuff like this:

How To Be The Best In The World Gatsby Party

It looks fun at first, but when you ask why these things happened, you’ll realize that people were overwhelmed with life.

By “our generation” Daniel means millennials. Right now, we’re living through our very own great depression. The Internet Age has begun. If you’re waiting for the next big thing…don’t. This is it. We’re 20 years into a 100+ year revolutionary technology, this thing is only just beginning.

The media now tells us that we can have everything, be everything and do everything we’ve ever wanted. You can finally make money without having to be picked. Whether you’re a comic strip artist, air guitar player, or Start Trek fan fiction writer – you can now get paid for it.

Many 20-somethings react exactly like me when they first realize this: they try to do it all at once.

When the car first hit the scene, over 100 car manufacturers suddenly emerged in the US alone. Guess how many of those are left today: three. The exact same thing is happening again right now, but on an individual scale. Billions of people start online businesses, but only a few million will eventually make it through their Dips.

I totally get it. I feel the same way. Having to pick one thing is depressing, especially when so many things are dangled in front of your nose. But whether industrial revolution or internet revolution, the path to success stays the same.

How to be the best in the world

Here’s where most of us can learn from our parents. If you were raised in an (upper) middle class family, chances are, your parents picked their career paths like this:

  1. They chose something they liked or could at least tangentially relate to at the time.
  2. They stuck with it for 20, 30, 40 years.

For example, here’s how my Dad became the best in the world. Originally, he wanted to become a pharmacist. But access to the pharmacy college program was restricted – he didn’t get in. So he chose the next best thing at the time: chemistry.

By the time he could’ve made the switch, he was already knee deep in chemistry, and which got him to liking it so much, he stuck with it. After getting his PhD, he spent a few years in the lab with one company, before switching to a job he’s now held for over 15 years.

What is he the best in? Marketing and managing the product portfolio of a medium-sized company that manufactures industrial adhesives and sealants (glue).

What’s his “world“? Small- and medium-sized German businesses who need adhesives and sealants for their products.

That’s an incredibly tight definition of both “best” and “world” – and it still took him 15 years to get there. How do you feel about starting a Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat account all at once now?

Let’s hope you don’t hear from me for a while…

…because it’ll mean I’ve finally picked a Dip worth pushing through. A dip that makes it worth to fail along the way. I highly encourage you to do the same. Take a close look at everything you’re doing. And then quit 90% of it.

I’ll leave you with some of the questions I’ve picked up from Seth, which I’ve been churning in my head over and over and over again, to get to the root of what matters.

Start by asking yourself these for everything you’re working on.

  • What is this for?
  • Is this something that might not work? If it works, will I be glad I did it? If it doesn’t, can I keep going long enough until it will?
  • Is what you’re doing remarkable? That means, will people make a remark about it to other people?
  • Does it bring people together around a shared cause, goal or purpose?
  • Do you make a group of people feel respected, who might not have felt that before?
  • Would you be missed if you were gone? If you didn’t send out that email, would people actually ask for it?
  • Are you changing people? What’s the transformation you’re providing?

And lastly, but most importantly:

Can you be the best in the world at this?

I don’t know what best means. I don’t know what my world will look like. But I’ll try. I’m out. Because average is for losers.

Niklas Goeke

I am a German student on his way to becoming an entrepreneur!

  • Paulo Andrade

    Hi Nik, I read your post fast so, sorry if i miss something.

    I can relate to you in the doing lot of stuff at the same time. I have to say it is like an addiction to multitask. Recently, I read (listen) The One Thing. Great book and the book pointed me to the same conclusion that you took? Focus in the One Thing. I have been trying to do this since I finished the book. I posponed many tasks in my Remember the milk account I an am forcing myself, using Momentum (the chrome app), and a Dally journal app to focus in one task at a time for my main goal of the year.

    BTW, what is your main goal of the year ? Don´t need to answer :). but, my suggestion is turn it your The One Thing for the year. Put some goals and expected results and then, at the end of the year, review it.

    You know, is very liberaring when you say to yourself: I will only do this stuff during this year. All the other cool I ideas will go to the Ideas jar, that you will review at the end of the year. This what I am trying to do and its hard ! Hard since I am 48, have a full time job with manegement responsabilities, a wife na many cats to feed :). Anyway, I hope you the best. You are doing good stuff and helping people. What you do Matters.

    Best,

    Paulo

    • Hey Paulo, thanks so much for that last line, that already made my day 🙂

      I know The One Thing and ironically just installed Momentum 2 days ago haha. Of course The One Thing talks more about it from a productivity standpoint, that’s why I love how you transferred it to “one thing for the year” – I originally started out with something like this, but somehow got sidetracked.

      I don’t know what my one goal for the year is currently, it’s probably gonna have to do with Four Minute Books, but not sure what it’ll be.

      It is SO liberating to let go of things, I totally agree. I have so much respect for you doing this at your age and with so many more responsibilities than me, I’m really grateful for you sending your support. I’ll keep doing my best.

    • You have my respect sir. At this age and with so many responsibilities you are still moving ahead. Great to see that. Best wishes from my side 🙂

      I would +1 that last sentence for Nik “What you do Matters” 🙂

  • Great post. Brutally honest, brutally logical. Keep on quitting, keep on pushing. I am excited for the things to come.

  • Lauren Hunt

    Great post Niklas
    This really spoke to me and has me doing some soul searching.
    The hard part is when you have lack of clarity around what to focus on and what to quit.
    But I’ve been hearing this message too- time to narrow it down.

    • Hey Lauren, glad it resonated, it’s exactly that clarity that is our job to create up front – it’s often not that hard to pick once you truly listen to yourself and spend a few days thinking hard!

      Let me know what you choose!

  • Hey Niklas, great article! (I first found your site through the great post you wrote for SumoMe.) This article resonated with me because I’ve got a tendency to start loads of projects and not focus on one thing. Since reading this, I’ve cut out two half-done projects. Which project are you going to focus on? Keep up the great work!

    • Thanks Edmond! I’m so happy it had an impact on you and made you think! I’m going to focus on Four Minute Books, it feels the most rewarding right now and also has the biggest potential, I think. What do you want to focus on?

      • Glad you chose the Four Minute Books Nik. I really the work you are doing there and the concept itself is amazing 🙂

      • Thanks for replying Nik! I really enjoy Four Minute Books and I hope it goes really well for you! Hopefully, you still write on this blog as I’ve very much enjoyed reading your posts. I love that your posts are authentic and really detailed and about topics that I’m interested in.
        I’m going to focus on my blog http://www.howtobedapper.com. I’d started to neglect it but since reading your post above, I’ve committed to making it a success. I’d identified that I needed to do videos for it and I’d been procrastinating doing it but got it done this week after betting a chunky bet with a good friend who holds me accountable. I’m going to create content more regularly, particularly after being inspired by your relentless content creation schedule you detailed in your SumoMe article!

        • Edmond, this looks awesome! I haven’t seen a blog that’s THAT specific about helping men dress better, I really like the positioning, this could go somewhere for sure, keep it up! I’m sure I’ll return to writing on my own blog sooner rather than later, but I’ll try to take things one at a time for now (I have way too many ideas, Youtube Channel, Instagram, this – but committed to the Four Minute Book Dip now!)

          • Thanks very much for the encouragement Nik – I really appreciate it!
            I totally understand re your focus on Four Minute Books! I’m learning a lot from reading your summaries!

        • Wow! Now that’s a nice niche. Some great content there. Yes videos will get you more traction in this niche. Best of luck for your work Edmond. Already opted for the free ebook! 🙂 And ya that SumoMe article is a goldmine if we can implement, can’t agree more.

          • Awesome! Thanks very much Kunal! I really appreciate it! Hope you enjoy it!

    • Its always a bit relief to see few more people on the same boat 😉
      I have the same tendency to quit early, and its frustrating sometimes!

      • Hey Kunal! That’s what I love about the internet – there’s always people out there in a similar position to yourself! I really enjoyed your list on your latest post. Really honest and raw. Lots of creative ideas there. Don’t get discouraged! Keep going! (BTW I was looking to sign up to your newsletter for updates but couldn’t find an email signup box?)

        • Hi Edmond.I am glad you liked those ideas. Thanks a lot for your encouraging words 🙂 It means a lot to me.
          Regarding the email signup box. I never thought someone would actually like to receive my updates in their inbox, so didn’t added that option :P. I added the subscription box now.

          • Yes, Kunal is starting a newsletter, fantastic! 🙂

          • Awesome Kunal! I’ve just signed up to your newsletter! Looking forward to receiving your updates!

  • Hey Nik, Great post. Resonates well with my current situation. I recently decided to compile all my Quits till now and ended up with 11 ideas that I started and didn’t completed (http://kunalsarkar.me/journey-of-my-failures-till-now/). It is very frustrating to decide one more Quit. But your post brings some relief 🙂

    Keep Rocking m/

    • Hey Kunal, I looked at your list, there were some good ones in there! I especially like PhotoPress and most of all LensTrades, that could really be a thing! Never quit quitting until you have that one thing worth holding on to 🙂

      • “Never quit quitting until you have that one thing worth holding on to.” Now those are some powerful words! 🙂
        Thanks for looking into that article and I appreciate your feedback on the ideas. It matters a lot 🙂

        • That’s what I’m here for Kunal. Let me know when you figure out what your thing is!

  • Niklas! I can resonate with this post. I think people like us — who love to consume knowledge — fall for this trap a lot easier. It’s HARD to not want to try new things when we’re learning new things all the time.

    It takes discipline!

    • Funny, just found one of your summaries on reddit today 🙂 Yeah, the more you learn, the more you want to try, it’s actually not that simple to strike a balance! Most people don’t know this, but I read almost 0 blogs, listen to podcasts, etc. I restrict my learning to a few places, but maximize it there and then try to put as much time into creation as I can!

      • Ah!

        Are there any places you can publicly recommend?

        And indeed, It’s increasingly difficult to balance “creating” , “learning” AND networking!

        With so much freedom to do so, comes just as much distraction!

        “I’m going to write a blog post today! Oh .. I better reply to all these emails..and then to those reddit comments…and then I better go post on medium..”

        Sigh.

        • Well, besides Blinkist I rarely read anything regularly besides Nat Eliason’s blog right now. He has some great stuff: http://nateliason.com/ I also commit to writing first thing in the day, that makes it a lot easier to make sure that happens.