What do the bricklayer, the boiler-man and the B2B writer all have in common? Lucrative accesses to niches you long left behind.
As a serial career drop-out my track record in the job world isn’t impressive. I’ve done my time in start-ups, dabbled in B2B publishing – even taught English in Southeast Asia. It’s been a fairly bumpy road.
Driven by the need to find something appealing career-wise, I’ve always grown quickly disillusioned with whatever it is I found myself doing. For a large part of my 20’s? Travel – and travel blogging specifically – seemed the sexiest thing on Earth. Getting paid to live out of a suitcase from one destination to the next.
Even this was as fleeting, interest-wise, as every other thing I’d ever tried. Good for a couple of years with projects like my self-styled mission to get fluent in Spanish (achieved a long time after the blog’s painful advertising-ridden death), even that never really felt sustainable in the long-run.
The Case for Sticking At It
A big part of me? Always had one-eye on the next attractive thing. Downplaying whatever current project I had going for lack of, what I perceived at least, attention from the masses. Or a viable monetization strategy. Or just raw apathy.
How much of this boiled down to youth or personality I can’t say. Having grown up a little since then, I’ve at least come to appreciate the importance of consistency more. And that of sticking to a plan.
Which brings me to the idea, by no means groundbreaking, that sometimes the “unsexier” things in life; that drudge of a job, that “unglamorous” line of work, that ball-achingly boring publishing sector you’re in, are often overlooked by the brash and boldness of our youth. Or idiocy as adults.
The Boring Can Become Bountiful
“If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.”Laozi
Case in point; a guy, Stu. Someone I’ve been following on YouTube for a while. Stu’s story resonated given my own interests struggling to make an internet buck back in the day. Using his channel to document his forays into acting (local theatre), alongside his bigger YouTube hustle trying to make it as a ‘vlogger’, it was innocent viewing.
What I liked about the guy was his candidness. And his authenticity. He wasn’t scared about being honest.
Most of all what I liked about Stu though, I sure hope he won’t mind me saying, is that he really wasn’t very good at any of the online business-type/vlogging stuff he was doing. Nor did he have any real clue over what to do with his channel.
All you could see was a couple of things. First; Stu was desperate to grow an audience. And second; he was desperate to be known for “something” other than the banal existence he deemed his regular day-to-day.
The Power of the Pivot
Needless to say I lost track of Stu. This happened right around my first year back in school when I guess life took over. It was also at the same time I saw him make a pivot on YouTube. Moving from prank and skit videos with very little interest, to the idea of documenting his day job of bricklaying.
Having no personal interest in bricklaying myself, it was there Stu and I said our goodbyes. His dreams of YouTube fame and glory? I was confident were over.
Except that didn’t quite happen. Because, as of writing, Stu has over 140K subscribers. Has several videos with over 1m views (one with almost 7m) and has built an entire brand teaching bricklaying to the masses.
But besides from sticking to it (where most entrepreneurs and business owners fail), what else did Stu get right?
He finally realised, after all the time he spent dabbling trying to find something “sexier”, that the whole time he had something much easier on his hands. A killer niche right under his nose. A job he perceived as too boring originally that suddenly sparked the interest of thousands.
Thus proving the internet a big enough place for everyone to gain a following.
The Boiler & the B2B Writer
“The three great essentials to achieve anything worthwhile are, first, hard work; second, stick-to-itiveness; third, common sense.”Thomas Edison
But where Stu’s story is hardly unique, it’s something we often forget about when we enter the world post-education. All the “unsexy” jobs we thumb our noses at or simply just “fall into”? Those are the things that are the most tried and tested. Perhaps the most viable and secure.
These are the industry’s – your HVAC, your lawn cutting, your chimney sweeping etc – silently continuing to make bank underneath the glam and veneer of the other shiny counterparts. The travel. The leisure. The high-end dining and luxury event industries. All the things now dying a slow death in our post-Covid world.
Another example of ignoring the allure to make very real money? This story here in the Financial Times. A young guy revolutionizing the gas-boiler industry. Building a viable solution to a problem nobody would ever really consider “juicy” or “interesting”.
Then there’s the B2B writer, who, after a couple of years trying to get into a sexier space, suddenly goes back to what they know best. Finance.
The funny thing? The advice to concentrate on the boring things, to not jump hastily into the more exciting, is all out there ready for you to watch. It’s just that few people are listening. Still distracted by the dazzle and thinking that – what’s best a brief break from reality – can still be the dream that delivers the benefits of a steady, reliable job.
The Sexy Thing About Really Unsexy Things
I guess the main message here is one of “don’t ignore what’s in front of you for the hope of something better.” Or that old grass-is-greener adage.
I know I could have done better hearing it (but possibly wouldn’t have listened) coming out of University before 2008’s great recession. Maybe then I would have seen the benefit of sticking it out long enough in an area. Gaining leverage as an authoritative voice. Selling my expertise.
But while I still don’t want to downplay the other side of the coin; that of knowing when’s best to cut your losses, I still think the point stands.
A lot of our decisions to chase these fantasies come from seeking validation and acceptance from others. Our modus operandi being to fill a hole with the cool job, the cool car, the cool work colleagues etc. Only to realise it’s hard to compete in these crowded industries. Given everyone wants the same thing.
Ironically, what we really crave? Fair financial reimbursement. Respect from our colleagues. A sense of being valued. Loyalty from our customers etc. All things we could have more easily simply sticking it out (or pivoting back to), that which we deem “unsexy” in the first place.
So think about that at least. Before you next consider quitting your boring job. Because what’s “boring” to you might be utterly fascinating for me. And maybe you can reverse engineer it in a more creative way.
The idea of this article was just born from the excitement I got checking in on Stu’s success after all these years. Then it got me thinking; mostly everybody has something (whether a skill, a job or an opinion) interesting enough to grow an audience with. The issue is most people (myself included) overthink it!