What are you the best in the world at? It turns out that this is what you have to be, to get noticed and hired, these days. You have to be recognised as being the obvious choice. You have to be that one person that is the best person for the task given to you by the person paying for your services, as an artist. Are you the obvious choice for your customers?
Tough question, eh?
It’s true that each of us actually is the best in the world at something. The problem is we tend to smother that essential truth under a laundry list of other things we do competently or even very well indeed. None of that matters. People don’t look for very good, they look for the best.
Think about hiring somebody on the basis of their CV. You know what you need, but you’re presented with CVs that tell you every minor detail about every little thing each person has ever been associated with doing, throughout their entire career. How does that help you? What you wish you could find is that one candidate that says, “If your problem is X, you’ll discover that I am the best person in the world at solving problem X”. If that’s what you look for when you seek a candidate, then that should be what you present when you are a candidate.
Making a statement that is as clear and bold as only saying what you do best is scary, because it means you might not get all those other jobs you could do competently, but which are not your one true specialty. I have news for you. You’re not going to get them anyway. The jobs that match what you do competently, will always go to the people or artists that do them outstandingly.
We also fear that if we state that we’re the best in the world at something and our audience judges us as not good enough at that thing, then we’re doomed. Maybe so, but if you ditch putting your time and energy into things that you are merely competent at and put those resources into the thing you are best at, then you have a far greater chance of making the grade, than if you don’t.
Best in the world doesn’t mean in the whole wide world, though. For the sake of having somebody take you on or buy your work, best in the world simply means best in the limited, local, known universe of choices available to the customer. It doesn’t matter if there is a better painter than you in Ulan Bator, because your customer won’t dream of buying from there. Of course, with the Internet and Google, that world keeps shrinking. On the other hand, while Bob Dylan could never be considered to be the best singer in the world, or even the best song writer, he actually is the one and only Bob Dylan. That means he gets the gig, whenever Bob Dylan is what’s required.
The biggest rewards accrue to the top dog in any field and so finding a way to describe that thing about you and your art that is the very best thing you do is going to be far more effective than confusing the customer with all the other things you can do, or like doing, but you aren’t focused on being the best at doing. Look at your biggest successes ever and run with that.
Freddie Mercury trained as a graphic artist and was good enough at it to make a couple of Queen’s album covers. I bet you can bring them to mind, even now. They were undoubtedly good pieces of work. However, can you imagine what would have been lost if Freddie had focused on earning a living as a graphic artist, as good as he was at it, at the expense of neglecting his singing, song writing, musicianship, record production skills and stage presence?
I confess that I also suffer from the fault of trying to do too much and trying to be excellent at many things at once. Unfortunately, you can’t because life’s too short and even if you can, people still want to know what your best thing is.
Asking yourself what one thing you are best in the world at is a frightening thing to do, especially if you are really good at many things. It’s even scarier, if you have misallocated your time and effort, to date, on the wrong thing – the thing you’ll never be the best in the world at and probably don’t want to be. You’ve got some catching up to do. I’ve got some catching up to do!
Ultimately, though, knowing what you’re the best in the world at is a good thing to know. It helps you reap the disproportionate rewards of being the obvious choice, when people are looking for what you do best. It also stops you from spending your life on things you don’t want to be the best in the world at anyway or confusing people about what your best offering is.
Hard questions usually bring clarity. Good luck with this one.