Ask JF: How Do I Get Attention In a Crowded Field?

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I’ve been asked this question by everyone from bloggers to actors, artists to entrepreneurs and corporate aspirants to movement makers.

How do I make a mark when it seems everything that can be created, said or done has been created, said or done by someone else?

Short answer.

No field is too crowded to make a mark when you’re remarkable. Click here to tweet!

In fact, the very existence of a robust market filled with competition and a near cacophony of voices is a signpost of demand, which in business, is a good thing as long as you do one big thing…

Become the signal, not the noise.

There are two things you really need to own, hone and cultivate if you want to burst onto a massively crowded scene.

First –

Embrace your eyes, ears and filters.

The way you see the world is unlike anyone else. Put 100 people in a room, surprise them with a dramatized alarming incident, then interview them after and you’ll get 100 different stories about what happened. 100 people see the exact same thing, but experience it and process it differently. The filter you bring to any experience literally alters what you believe you see and hear. Often on the level of gross distortion.

This may not serve you well in eyewitness scenarios, but in everyday day, the unique perspective you bring to any situation can be become a huge asset. Your unique world-view and life experience makes you experience circumstances differently. It allows you to see possibilities and connections that nobody else sees.

This blends with the “fact” of a circumstance to fuel a synthesis of ideas that are unique to you and only you. In a conversation with story guru, Robert McKee, as few years ago, I asked McKee how he defines talent. His answer – talent is the ability to see how two ideas blend together to create something bigger than both that nobody else sees.

So, truth is, it doesn’t matter how many others are operating in the same space as you. They are not you. They don’t experience that space the way you do, or bring the same world-view, filters, mental models and lenses to it. They don’t see what you see, nor assemble the pieces and come up with the same conclusions.

That’s advantage number one. Our unique experience intake and synthesis process.

But it won’t get you where you want to go. There’s something else…

Cultivate your authentic voice.

This is where craft becomes a core differentiator. It’s not enough to take things in and process them differently, you’ve also got to be able to turn that into output that not only clearly expresses your unique point of view, but does so in a voice that is unique to you.

Here’s where I see so many entrepreneurs, writers, artists and creators go wrong. They have something extraordinary in their heads, but they don’t trust in their ability to share it in a compelling enough way through their own authentic voice. So, they either dumb it down, bor-ify it or find the 5 people in the space who seem to be kicking ass and adopt an amalgam of those peoples’ voices.

We all have influences we’re drawn to. And, it’s not unusual that we draw pieces from those influences along the way to cultivating our own voices.

But, long term, borrowing from others is death to differentiation. And, it’s death to the maker looking to make a mark.

You MUST cultivate both the confidence and craft to be able to express what’s in your head in a voice that is fully aligned with who you are, not with the 5 people you want to be. If you don’t, people will dismiss the quality of your ideas as derivative. Not because they’re bad, but because the voice you’re using to share them is just an amalgam of other, already known voices.

So, to wrap things up, own your lens and your process, cultivate your voice, align them with your authentic self when you bring them to the world in the glorious story that is you. Doesn’t matter whether you’re selling doughnuts, creating online contentbuilding businesses or starting movements that change lives.

This may take time. Months, maybe years. But it’s time well spent.

So, what do YOU think?

How have you worked to emerge in a crowded field?

Share your thoughts in the comments below…


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45 responses

45 responses to “Ask JF: How Do I Get Attention In a Crowded Field?”

  1. Stacey says:

    This is great! It brought tears to my eyes reading it. I have struggled for many years becoming who I really am and not allowing others to decide who I should be. In reading this post, it made me realize that I have jumped that hurdle and am where I’m supposed to be and I have finally allowed myself to be “me.” So, thank you for writing and sharing this. It has inspired me to keep moving forward and to never give up, no matter how rough the road might be.

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      Hey Stacey, so glad it resonated. It’s not always an easy process and it’s as much internal as it is external

    • David Cooper says:

      I couldn’t agree more. It comes at timely juncture for me too. We all know about USP (or should), but usually, as with all things business, just scratch on the surface.
      I can’t think of a better or more complete analysis of USP, at the same time going way beyond the usual superficial view.
      Taking the extension of USP to the point of self involvement is not only fairly unique itself, it’s almost revolutionary.
      Being different and achieving it 100% is a perennial problem, it’s seldom done.
      As an insight and a way of viewing this problem from a totally clear and logical perspective, it’s a breath of fresh air.
      I am designing and bringing to market something currently and complicating matters as is typical. Suddenly the house style, sales message and even the name which I am struggling over, is about to get easier. It’s as if someone as cut a hole in a frosted window.
      I can suddenly look at these things with a fresh eye brain.
      And what’s the key point?
      Thanks J. I always enjoy your mails, but this one helps more than you could possibly imagine.

  2. […] Jonathan Fields, of the blog Tribal Marketing, asks the question, […]

  3. Midwesterner says:

    Superb insights and advice. Thank You.

  4. Joyce Reid says:

    Jonathan: May I have permission to use this post as an article in my digital magazine GiftRetailersConnection. It is right on target regardless of what business you are in.
    Thank you.

  5. Mark Furlong says:

    Great insights again, Jonathan. Not kissing butt here, but you live this out in a examplary way. I am not so much a philosphy guy but Thales said, “The most difficult thing in life is to know thyself.” (I doubt he used “thy” in Greek but who knows). Having outside input has helped me “know myself” because it is really hard to “see ourselves” by ourselves. Your article was very encouraging. thank so much. (I will be retweeting your post).

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      it is amazing how much of a challenge it is to develop an intimate knowledge of ourselves. Often far more difficult than being able to see the essence of others with clarity

  6. sue west says:

    Not sure I have emerged from a crowded field BUT your words I”ll keep with me (somehow) along the path until that point. What a fascinating journey this has been already, learning to listen to and trust my authentic voice. I look forward to more curiosity, more learning, and emergence! Thanks – great post.

  7. genell banks says:

    Great articles as I felt like this was specifically wrote for me. I’ve been in, out and around the beauty profession for 20yrs, and now trying to pursue blogging in this ever so crowded niche I’m filled with doubts.this has helped me look at my strong points that I have over the majority and I will be keeping this in mind as I prepare to launch. Thank You

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      It’s so easy to want to be the next so-and-so, but the real prize is when you develop the ability to emerge as the first you!

  8. beth chase says:

    Interesting post. I was just thinking about this. I have read a lot and done a lot over the last few years and my life in general. I was just thinking that I needed to sit down and try to pull all the bits together into some cohesive, actionable meaning.

  9. For me it is not a matter of working to emerge in a crowded field, it is more simply the challenge of maintaning my authentic self and NOT being influenced by all the “noise” around me that says “do things this way”. How lucky you are to have found your voice early in your life journey.

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      My voice is still very much an evolutionary process that matching my exploration of life. It’s always funny for me to look back at what I’ve written a few years back and see how different my voice has become

  10. Jeffrey says:

    I enjoyed this post, Jonathan — what resonates the most w/ me is the part about how we all see through different lenses and filters. I see this at work often in the various ways people experience Nature.
    Unfortunately, filters always make one thing clearer at the cost of taking something else away. And some are not of our own choosing. My aim is to see my world — and help others to do so too — with the pure, unfiltered awareness we had when we were kids.
    Do you think this applies to people seeking to “make a mark?”

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      Absolutely, though I wouldn’t discount the “realness” of the effect of whatever lens you wear. There is no such thing as life unfiltered. We cannot evaporate our past. But we can develop practices that encourage us to question the filters and adjust the lenses in order to experience either more clarity or inspire a more positive, constructive experience of a circumstance

  11. Food for thought 🙂 I think the larger question for many is how to find their own voice to begin with.
    Once you do, it’s natural to look for a master to model after. It’s part of learning your craft.
    If you don’t know your voice and model after many masters you run into the danger of sounding like a cheap copy.
    Thanks for sharing your insights, I love reading your posts.

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      Great question, no easy answer. But I’ve found consisten devotion to the craft and to experimentation are key elements

  12. Mary Collins says:

    Thank-you for this post. I’ve been working on this a lot lately. I’m trying to get clear on my unique perspective in my business. It’s difficult. I make quilted cases and accessories. They are often given as gifts. It occurred to me that I am making expressions of love, and I try to keep that in mind when making my products. I’m not sure how to convey that but I’m working on it.

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      Love it. With businesses like yours, very often your “legend,” story or “why” can become a core differentiator.

  13. Ann says:

    Amen! This knowledge is echoed by Russel Simmons in “Do You.”


  14. Alan Shelton says:

    This is a great post. As you know my whole leadership passion is about authenticity. So here you are, preaching to the choir. But I want to add something you taught me in the Tribal Author experience. If you look at the whole marketplace at once it is overwhelming. Rather than that look and see where you want your voice to land. Then be a thought giant there. Since you told me this my experience of releasing my book and being a thought leader in leadership has entirely changed. It turns out that my work is accepted in a huge way in the world I wanted to impact. When that is what I take into account, the field doesn’t feel so crowded. And now, as you said, I have energy and momentum to be the awakened leader I tell others is possible. Crowded where? I am now the gorilla in the room. The room I always wanted to stand in! Thank you for the assist.

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      Great contribution, Alan. No doubt, narrowing your vision can help cultivate the fortitude to do the work needed to own your small corner of the universe

  15. Sher says:

    Perfect post for where I am in the process. It is a daily reminder that the process is slow but it will come. A quote I tell myself nearly every day, “If you build it, they will come.” And, they will.

    Thanks for writing great insights!

  16. Susan says:

    Being authentic does not always bring financial success…just saying. It does, however, bring a deep sense of contentment and peace.

  17. Eliana Gilad says:

    As one who consciously left the US behind more than twenty years ago, in search of her authentic voice, I discovered my place and have honestly been following that small still voice, which has guided me through every step to revive an ancient use of music that helps people connect to their inner calm and wisdom, no matter what is going on around them.

    I became very comfortable in my little corner – today, finding that the time has come to come out big again, to share what I have in support of others trusting their own authenticity.

    The big lesson I find, is in having the courage to claim my voice in a big way – allowing in the ease – and the comfort of company, which I am suddenly finding in the public arena (meaning discussion of authentic voice)… It’s comfortable to stay in a small corner. It’s much more courageous to come out and play…

    That’s what we are ultimately here for… isn’t it :-)…

    So grateful to discover just how much I am not alone.

    Thanks for the expression – saving me many words and opening the conversation.

  18. Great content! Cultivating the authentic voice is the one that resonated with me so much today. Your wisdom, support and tribe has played such an important role in inspiring our authentic voice at Mahila. Thank you!

  19. Simon says:

    At the core of owning your perspective and cultivating your authentic voice is deep rooted honesty.

    I have been making progress towards identifying and owning my voice lately. One of the things I have found that helps make steps toward finding your own voice is to go through the process of talking into a video camera. This is awful at the start but as you keep recording and watching it back you start to see and hear where you are trying/pretending, you start to hear the tone of your message, you hear emphasis and this makes it much easier to let go of your efforts to be someone else and start being you.

  20. Rory Green says:

    Jonathan- this is exactly why I started my workshops and blog Write To Be You. I want to help people clear away all the ‘noise’ and reach a more peaceful place where their words and voices ring deeply and truthfully. It’s very liberating and I have liberated myself by embarking on this venture and honing my own creative/therapeutic voice. Thank you for this post!! It helps because it’s easy to give up when you feel intimidated by everyone around – I dwell on this often.

  21. Tolle Haus says:

    I’m considering legally changing my name to “Jonathan Fields” to reflect my new found authenticity! What? Is that so wrong? 🙂

  22. This article reminds me of a recent entrepreneurial project my kids and I took on. Instead of doing the traditional lemonade stand in the neighborhood, we hosted a coffee stand and served Starbucks (the closest S-Bucks is 15-20 minutes away). It was fun to see the looks on all of our customer’s faces. Shafer…Power!

  23. JF!

    After more than 25 years in public relations and helping my clients stand out and be differentiated, I was in need of a boost as I refresh my own online business and image.

    I have started.

    It’s a process.

    Your post on attention in a seemingly crowded field felt fresh and grounding. Bouquets of field flowers to you!


  24. Louise says:

    Dear Jonathon , I think this blog is so relevant. We have been taught to be one thing, see things in a particular way and that there is only one right way to do things, that is the tenement of our culture. Always on the illusive search for one right way. (Daniel Quinn Ishmael). Yet when we can take multiple perspectives and ideas and put them together in a unique way that is when we get magic. Take Mamma Mia, part Abba, part Bollywood, part something for everyone. Or have you ever watched the Chooky dancers, ,traditional aboriginal dance with zorba the greek music. These things become such sensations because they are such weird connections.
    I am always fascinated by things that are connected and yet not. My chapter in the Pebbles in the Pond book is about how circus is a global tribal culture. It highlights how it is such a “me in the limelight” activity and yet it enables people to find their place in the group and feel confidant because of that. Bringing all the divergent things I love together is bringing me to understand that what I do is distill the essence. That is so much the more fun when you have bought together many divergent things and then mixed them , then found what is at the heart of it.
    Telling our own stories of the journey is a major part of the transformation. It is like alchemy. Magic of your own making.

  25. Gayle says:

    As with all of the previous replies, this really resonates with me. I struggle with hearing my own inner voice over the voices of others. It’s taken me quite a long time to be able to love my own voice above those voices. I’m now learning to speak what is true to my own heart not another version of someone else’s heart.

  26. Steve White says:

    This is an excellent post!

    “So, truth is, it doesn’t matter how many others are operating in the same space as you. They are not you. They don’t experience that space the way you do, or bring the same world-view, filters, mental models and lenses to it.”

    That’s so very true. It’s always interesting to me how people work hard to shape the way they think and act to someone else’s views – but that person has entirely different life experiences. We all operate under different lenses and shouldn’t change to follow someone else – we should change only in the ways needed to make a unique and indelible mark on the world.

  27. Love what you’ve written here Jonathan.

    If you bring your unique combination of know-how and life experience (I like to call it your own special form of genius) you can create quite an online presence. Injecting your personality into the mix makes it that much more special and you know what else? It makes the journey more enjoyable.

    Accept that you are a proud member of the not so perfect human race. That not so perfect part is what makes people interesting 🙂

  28. Chris Witt says:

    There’s something about each of us that filters (to use your term) what we perceive ir order to give it meaning. Otherwise, we’d be overwhelmed by the too-muchness that comes our way every moment. That same thing is at work when we tell stories. We create an order (a plot) out of what would otherwise be a more or less random stream of events.

    I don’t know what to call that thing within us that seeks or creates meaning out of the messiness that is our life. (Is it a faculty or a characteristic? Is it the psyche or the soul?)But I know that it is what makes us unique. And I agree with you that the more we trust it, the more we will stand out authentically from the crowd.

    Thanks for getting me to think.

  29. I couldn’t agree more Jonathan. There’s too much emphasis on standing out, but trying to do more, offer more, be more and “trying” to differentiate yourself. This is a “push” approach, which can work, but is grueling, exhausting in a way that often turns out inauthentic.

    So your post here is a breath of fresh air of just what I was looking to see. Funny, when I started reading it, my mind jumped to “oh no, here’s another approach saying you gotta stand out, and push it” so I was relieved to see this wasn’t that.

  30. Thanks for this Jonathon.I spent years being type cast and writing sequels to please publishers and readers. It is through self publishing that my true voice is about to ring out across the universe. It’s liberating and satisfying to be publishing a book which breaks all the rules,crosses age groups and genres, and has a spiritual message, the one we most need to hear and the one most frequently banned by publishers.
    That said, today I am struggling with the most irksome chore known to literates: how to write a synopsis! Blurb, I can do, but the synopsis feels like the ultimate dumbing down of my new paranormal fiction. Have you any ideas ?

  31. Excellent post Jonathan! I love what you said about our unique experience intake and synthesis process. So true and yet it is so easy for us to forget that we bring something to the table that NOBODY else has — our authentic voice — as long as we stay true to it. Thank you for always helping me to reflect and remember that!

  32. Jakob says:

    Thanks for the post, Jonathan! I’m an inspiring actor and I often get caught up in the meeting people, taking the right classes, making sure my headshot and resume look good, etc. Sometimes I forget the most important part is cultivating my voice as an actor and that is where the meat of work is.

  33. Amy Putkonen says:

    I was just thinking these same things recently as I was feeling a bit of angst about my own writing. (Am I good enough?) What I came up with, and what you’ve restated here for me, is that we all have our unique way of presenting things that speaks to different people. Of course I am good enough… aren’t we all? Thanks for writing this!

  34. […] How To Get Attention In a Crowded Field. Jonathan has some fabulous advice on being remarkable (Jonathan Fields) […]