In 2017, I shared a compilation of 23 inspirational quotes, from Rachael Ray to Ann Handley to Andy Weir and many people in between. Each of those quotes continues to inspire me and impact the way I think about content marketing
Today, to kick off the new year, the CMI editorial team asked me to share some more quotes.
I’ve been a quote junkie since I was a kid. Some of the quotes I’ve included this year I picked up recently. Others came from the dog-eared journal I started in 1993, which includes gems like this one:
Embarrassing? Absolutely. But …
My hope is that you pick up some inspiration from these quotes or think about familiar ideas in a new way.
Maintain your energy
Much of the work we need to do as marketers – and, more importantly, as makers – requires us to think and create. And, quite frankly, there is only so much time we can meaningfully write, develop, or create day in, day out.
Michael Simmons captures the idea perfectly in his article aptly titled An Ambitious Person’s Brutally Honest Take On Work-Life Balance:
“In the world of long-distance running, the idea of someone starting off a race by sprinting as fast as they can until they collapse from exhaustion is obviously stupid. Yet, when it comes to our careers, many of us follow this mentality.
Expert marathoners, on the other hand, purposely run slower than their full potential so they can run longer and actually win the race.
We need to redefine hard work from how many hours we work in a week (the equivalent of our sprinting speed) to how consistently hard we work over a long period of time.”
And, speaking of marathons, we often hear how content marketing is a marathon, not a sprint, and many articles reference 18 to 24 months as the time frame to build a brand with content marketing. But in the last few years, things have gotten more difficult, and, as Mark W. Schaefer observes, the journey requires more time:
On average, it takes 2-3 years for a personal brand to ignite, says @markwschaefer. #quotes Click To Tweet
What I determined was that it took, on average, between two and three years for a personal brand to really ignite. Two and half years. Wow. That’s 30 months of patience.
There may never be time for everything, but there is always time for plenty, says @heyfeifer. #quotes Click To Tweet
I don’t want to work nonstop – that only ends in burnout – but I want to make sure I’m using my time as wisely as possible. So I started measuring time in terms of outcome. I’d ask myself, ‘What do I get for this hour spent? What can I show for it later?’ … There may never be time for everything, but there is always time for plenty. It’s just a question of priorities.
While maintaining that focus is an ongoing journey (ahem, struggle), the best thing to get me back on track is unadulterated, pure quiet. I emphasized this idea in my previous quote post, and it’s why I was so mesmerized by this quote from Zen master Ryutan:
You are like this cup; you are full of ideas. You come and ask for teaching, but your cup is full; I can’t put anything in. Before I can teach you, you’ll have to empty your cup.
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Do, don’t (over)think
Like many marketers, I love coming up with ideas and starting projects, but I can burn out as the project slogs on. But these next quotes remind me that the actual doing (not the thinking about doing) are most important.
Ideas are worthless. Execution is everything. @Dilbert_Daily #quotes Click To Tweet
You’d be hard pressed to come up with an idea so bad that it couldn’t succeed with the right execution. And it would be even harder to imagine a great idea that couldn’t fail if the execution were left to morons. Ideas are worthless. Execution is everything. – Scott Adams, Dilbert creator
You are not a leader because you have better insight – you are a leader because you make decisions. – David C. Baker, The Business of Expertise
Too often we bemoan lack of time or lack of budget or lack of (insert your gripe here). But sometimes, it’s these very constraints that help us focus.
Here’s a fact: Creativity comes easier within constraints … Constraints make the haiku one of the world’s most moving poetic forms. They give us boundaries that direct our focus and allow us to be more creative. This is, coincidentally, why tiny startup companies frequently come up with breakthrough ideas. They start with so few resources that they’re forced to come up with simplifying solutions. – Shane Snow, Smartcuts
Connect with the (right) people
Another thing that keeps me energized is working with people who challenge me – and whom I enjoy. I have been proactively reaching out to marketers and business owners this year, and while not every conversation has an action, I always learn something new. (And, thus far, everyone has agreed to talk.)Working with people who challenge me energizes me and my work, says @MicheleLinn. Click To Tweet
Allen Gannett expresses this idea clearly in this quote from his book The Creative Curve (I recommend it):
Don’t wait for someone to take you under their wing; initiate the process yourself, says @Allen. #quotes Click To Tweet
The point is, don’t wait for someone to take you under their wing; initiate the process yourself. If you meet someone who is successful in a field you want to learn about, approach them. Be curious. Be relentless!
My business partner, Clare McDermott, and I often talk about the value of “creative abrasion.” I always look to work with people who ask questions, poke holes in my thinking, or otherwise give me a new perspective. While too much friction isn’t a good thing, embrace what Allen calls the conflicting collaborator:
For this reason, I call the ideal person to work with a conflicting collaborator. Basically, you don’t want to collaborate with someone who is so easy to get along with that they don’t push you. The goal is to find a person who will help you discover and overcome your flaws.
Here’s another reminder why it’s critical to embrace other perspectives:
Our senses are limited therefore our view of the world is limited. This is not a problem unless we start believing that what we perceive is all there is to be perceived. – Peter McWilliams, self-help author
Embrace your own path
One of the drums beating loudly this year is eschewing best practices and forging our own paths (and the more varied perspectives you have, the better).
As such, I can’t help but be reminded of this quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson. (Did anyone else go through a transcendentalist phase in high school? Just me? My quote book is littered with ideas from Walt Whitman, Henry David Thoreau, and Ralph Waldo Emerson.):
Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail, says #RalphWaldoEmerson via @MicheleLinn. #quotes Click To Tweet
Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Taking your own path also means having a point of view, which Meera Kothand summarizes in her book, Your First 100. (Meera is a new-to-me content marketer I stumbled upon this year. I’ve really enjoyed her action-oriented emails and books):
You add to the #content literature in your niche when you have a distinctive POV, says @MeeraKothand. #quotes Click To Tweet
Value doesn’t come from feeding your audience with free tips that everyone else is already saying. You provide value when you’re able to inspire a commitment to change. You add to the content literature in your niche when you have a distinctive point of view. This is also how you build content authority.
This is not to say that we can’t learn from others, but I challenge you to take the best of what you know, apply it, and do you.
Start now, from where you are
This last set of quotes (of which there are quite a few) may be the most important and universal. Own where you are and keep moving forward.
I unfortunately don’t know who said this next gem, but I have repeated this quote numerous times since I heard it at Content Marketing World last year:
“You can’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.”
It echoes these popular Chinese proverbs:
“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”
“Be not afraid of going slowly, be afraid only of standing still.”
And I leave you with this quote from Jay Acunzo who is talking to all of my marketing friends who experience this sense of paralysis because we think our work can be better:
Aspire to perfection over time, but make sure you’re taking one step forward today, says @jayacunzo. Click To Tweet
Perfect isn’t the enemy of good, nor is it the barrier to done. I just think we’re framing the idea all wrong. Aspire to perfection over time, but make sure you’re taking one step forward today.
Continue to prioritize, do, and own the best possible version of yourself, while making sure you have a hearty dose of quiet, so you can recharge and keep moving forward no matter where you are.
I’d love to hear what you are thinking about as we start the year. Share your favorite quotes – or ideas – in the comments.
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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute