Recently, I asked you to consider being your own guru. And, most understood that was more a call to action to actively engage in the quest for knowledge, question authority and cultivate the qualities that embody the person you’ve been hoping will “make everything alright.” It wasn’t a call to stop learning, trusting or sharing, but rather to question the notion of learning and sharing blindly and to rise to the challenge to engage and lead.
Let’s talk a bit more about how the word guru’s been slung around as a tool to drive money…
In the modern business world, the word guru is often used as a label placed in an effort to position certain folks as the all-knowing sages—the Wizards—in anticipation of extracting maximal wealth in exchange for knowledge and access. Now, you guys know me, I’m completely in favor of being well-compensated when you provide value. And, if that value drives the creation of substantial economic output, your rewards may well be substantial. More power to ya!
Then, why, when I was recently introduced as a lifestyle guru, did I almost puke!
Because, when I think of the word guru, I equate with the phrase, “someone who has arrived.” Maybe that’s not fair, it’s not the literal translation, but I do believe it’s how the word is often thrown about today. And, I’m not that guy. I’m still very much a journeyman.
Still, there’s a fair bit of wisdom that says, “if you wan’t to be paid for what you know, you’ve got to play the role of the wizard…the Guru.”
Which leaves me with an interesting question…
Can you get people to take you seriously enough to pay you real money for knowledge and access, without placing yourself in the position of the guru?
It’s a pretty fascinating question I’ve kicked around a bunch over the last year. Because I have this desire to get paid to share what I’ve discovered by living on the adventurous edge of life, but also view myself as very much “still on the road” to discovery.
The word guru translates to “darkness into light.” Someone who helps illuminate. And, we often overlay, “through wisdom, patience, kindness, compassion and leadership.” At it’s essence, it means “teacher.” Nothing more, nothing less.
But, somehow, over the last few decades in the offline world and the last few years in the online word, the word has begun to take on a more questionable connotation. One who knows all their is to know. One who has arrived at that special place all others aspire to. One who bestows knowledge to the worthy. And, a bit too often, one who stands above others and, from that place, betrays those who’ve surrendered free will and trust.
Granted, not all gurus embody these less-than-guru-like traits. There are plenty of genuine luminaries, seekers and sharers of pure wisdom, love, knowledge, compassion and, depending on the field, straight-up tactical knowledge and access. But, it’s been my experience, the best of those don’t call themselves gurus, there is no self-anointing of wizardom. Rather, as Chris Brogan and Julien Smith shared in the wonderful book, Trust Agents, they simply do what they do and, let others do the labeling.
In my case, I have not nor do I believe I will ever transcend the quest.
I work to engage on a visceral level with life, business and people. I push boundaries some people envision pushing, yet never do. I spend a lot of time contemplating questions, options, paths, strategies and tactics others only contemplate contemplating. I try, fail, learn, correct course, try again then share what I’ve learned.
Is there value in sharing what I’ve discovered? To my good fortune, the answer so far has been yes.
Does that a guru make? Not a chance.
Truth is, I’ve seen an increasingly level of what I’d call “Guru Fatigue” these days.
For a long time, the wisdom in the word of “making money from what you know” was you had to position yourself as the wizard. The top dog. And, for certain clients and fields, that’s likely still true.
But, over the last few years, I’ve sensed a growing movement of people who are really looking not for the opportunity to worship at the feet of the guru or rulebook, but the chance to connect, to be listened to, to be valued, to join in something bigger than themselves, to be inspired and rekindle hope and to learn something that will take them or their companies a serious bit further down the path than they are now from somebody who’s a serious bit further down that road…who they trust.
They’re not looking for the wizard, but rather, someone real they can trust to get them to the next level. Which, interestingly enough, is much closer to the literal definition of the word guru.
So, here’s my question –
I wonder…could that someone be you?
I’ve had a lot of people tell me they’d love to make a living sharing what they know, but they don’t know enough to share.
Fact is, there’s a pretty good chance you do already know enough about something to be able to share it with others and have value associated with that process of sharing. You don’t have to be the wizard to create that experience. You just have to be:
- Real (interestingly enough, as we’ve discovered, that doesn’t necessarily mean revealing your identity),
- Deliberately invested in pushing your life or your specific area of interested forward in ways that will generate not only engaging experiences, but knowledge to be shared,
- Willing to compile your experiences into a format that provides value to others,
- Able to share what you’ve discovered, and
- Motivated to find the people to whom your knowledge and advice are valued,
Great examples of this approach include:
- James of MenWithPens.ca, who writes about the process of writing, then leverages her position to generate business writing for others.
- Pam Slim of EscapeFomCubicleNation, who writes about transitioning from big companies to entrepreneurship, then generates revenue helping people do that very thing
- Naomi Niles of IntuitiveDesigns.net, who writes about blog and web design, then generates revenue by designing and building blogs for others
- ChrisGuillebeau of ArtOfNoncoformity.com, who writes about living an unconventional life and travel-hacking, then generates revenue with products that teach people how to do what he’s done.
- Mark Hayward of Mark-Hayward.com, who writes about small business, then helps people grow their own small businesses
- Charlie Gilkey of ProductiveFlourishing.com, who writes about productivity for creative minds, then generates revenue helping creative-types get stuff accomplished
- Tamar Weinberg of Techipedia.com, who writes about social media and tech, then generates revenue helping companies market themselves through those same media
- Dave Navarro of TheLaunchCoach.com, who writes about launching products online, then generates revenue helping people launch products online
- Glen Allsopp of ViperChill.com, who writes about internet biz, then generates revenue by creating a variety of products that help people make money online
- Michael Martine of Remarkablogger.com, who writes about building better blogs, then generates revenue by helping people build better blogs.
- Naomi Dunford of IttyBiz.com, who writes about small biz marketing and being real, then generates revenue by helping people market their small businesses (you gotta get real on your own)
- Lynn Terry of ClickNewz.com, who writes about affiliate marketing, then generates revenue both as an affiliate marketer and helping other learn affiliate marketing
- Sarah Robinson of Escaping-Mediocrity.com, who writes about building an extraordinary life, then generates revenue helping people build extraordinary lives
- Julie Roads of WritingRoads.com, who writes about writing, then generates revenue by writing for others.
- Marie Forleo of MarieForleo.com, who writes and offers videos on coming alive in all areas of life, then generates revenue helping people do just that.
The common thread with all of these people is that they position themselves not as some exalted sage to be proselytized, but as:
- Someone real,
- Someone who’s a bit further into the journey,
- Someone who has built-in the space to think about and solve problems that others haven’t,
- Someone who can help accelerate the journey of others,
- Someone who cares…
- BUT not so much the ultimate, end-all-be-all wizard or guru.
So, I wonder two things…
Have you noticed a growing sense of guru-fatigue?
And, looking deeper into your own life-experience and knowledge-base, what might you be able to built a revenue stream around without having to present yourself as the god of that world?
Love to hear your thoughts in the comments…
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