Are you waiting for permission to be helpful?Jan 03, 2023
Recently, I received a text. It was from a friend who was attempting to get a podcast started. His text began with a simple question about editing software, then his follow-up questions asked me for more nuanced information. Instead of replying in the text thread, I did the old-guy thing and gave him a call. I joked that it was his fault because he requested too much detail.
What followed was a 12-minute conversation about various elements of podcasting. He started by asking me questions about software, then he asked about my microphone preferences. After I shared my preferences, we talked about the benefits of batch recording, building momentum, gaining consistency, and a few other relevant topics that all podcasters wonder about when they're creating a show for the first time.
As we prepared to end the call, he said, "Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. Don't be surprised if you hear from me again once we get the show off the ground." I told him I'd be happy to chat some more in the future.
The friend that texted is someone I've known for a long time, but not someone who contacts me regularly. But when it came to podcasting, I was the first person that came to his mind. Why do you suppose that is? Do I have some sort of official designation or credential that makes me the authority on podcasting? Obviously I don't, but among the people my friend knows, I'm the one person who has been consistently recording podcasts for the longest period of time.
So, while I haven't been officially credentialed as a podcasting authority, that's exactly what I've become, and I don't need a credential to establish that. My years of work, and the podcasting success that has come from it, is the only real credential I need. I don't need a podcasting diploma. I don't need a badge, and I don't need a title. All I really need is God's blessing, the fruit of my labor, and a servant's heart.
I mention that because I have met many people, particularly those who are early in the process of developing their online platforms, who mistakenly believe they need some sort of credential, designation, or diploma before they can help someone else. That's quite far from being true. I recognize that there are forms of outside validation that might be useful to convince you that you have what it takes to be helpful, but that validation can take a long time before it's ever bestowed. In the meantime, are you just supposed to wait around for permission to be helpful, or could you begin helping someone as soon as today?
I would suggest that today would be a great day for you to help someone else. If the kind of content you produce doesn't require licensing or legal credentialing to share with others, the only thing probably holding you back from sharing it is your own self-doubt. Maybe you're struggling to see yourself as someone who can help others, but there are a few things you can do to get over those self-imposed emotional limits.
1. Just start helping people. The more you help people, the more comfortable you'll become with offering help. You'll also begin to notice the common struggles and frequently asked questions that are regularly brought up in your area of expertise. If you're asked a question and you don't know the answer, just admit it, but follow up with some research on the subject so you're better prepared the next time you receive a similar question.
2. Give yourself permission to succeed. In most areas, success takes time. Seasoned content creators will tell you that it took a few years of consistent action before their platform hit a tipping point. I suspect that, on average, it takes most people at least three years of unwavering consistency before they see the results they initially dreamed of. But even before they get to that spot, they will see a whole series of small successes along the way that continue to build upon one another. Give yourself permission to get to that tipping point. If you're doing something you love, the time will go by quickly, and your knowledge base will steadily grow.
3. Don't downplay the value you bring to the table. When someone reaches out to you for help, you don't need to feign modesty or act like you're unqualified to assist. If you're good at something or have a deeper level of knowledge on a particular subject, share it without deflecting. Don't say things like, "Well, I haven't really been doing this as long as so-and-so..." or, "You know who could give you a much better answer? That guy."
4. Give away lots of free content. This is something many people forget to do. They think all their best content needs to be behind a paywall for their business or platform to be profitable, and that's absolutely not the case. I would guess that less than 10% of the content I've created is behind a paywall. The majority of the content I create on a daily or weekly basis is freely shared through various channels. Each of those channels becomes a marketing arm for my overall platform. The more I help people with free content, the more income I seem to receive from some of my paid offers. In fact, giving away free content helps me build an audience, authority, and advertising revenue. Free content can become one of the most valuable things you produce, and most of the time, you don't need anyone's permission to share it.
5. Start referring to yourself differently. People will think of you in accordance with how you carry yourself. If you know a lot about something, but you speak of yourself as a novice, people will often assume that your self-assessment is correct, and they'll think of you as a novice as well (even though that's not the honest truth). I don't think it's wise to be dishonest. I also don't think dishonesty demonstrates humility. Humility involves taking an honest assessment of who you are and what you do. If you're an experienced writer, don't hesitate to call yourself one. If you're an experienced coach, call yourself a coach. If you start a membership community, call yourself a leader or a founder. You're good at something that can help others succeed, so start describing yourself in honest terms.
Creating a successful online platform really comes down to figuring out how you can be helpful to other people. Your platform, and the content you produce, solve problems. The things you write, record, and teach help make the lives of other people better. Keep serving others with a generous spirit, and don't spend your life waiting for someone else to help the people you're qualified and positioned to help. You don't need permission to be helpful. Your experience and the wisdom you've gained from that experience have already credentialed you. Life's too short to waste precious time waiting for some elusive form of external validation to tell us we have the permission we need to do what we've clearly been designed to do long ago.
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