Philip Morgan - Specialization Is Never Boring

Specialization guru Philip Morgan joins me to talk about when to niche down and what to do about the fear of doing so.

Specialization guru Philip Morgan joins me to talk about when to niche down and what to do about the fear of doing so.

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TRANSCRIPT

Jonathan (00:00):
Hello, and welcome to ditching hourly. I'm Jonathan Stark. Today. I am joined by special guest, very special guest and old friend, Phillip Morgan, Phillip, welcome to the show.

Philip (00:09):
Great to be here, Jonathan. Thanks

Jonathan (00:11):
For having me. So for folks who maybe haven't heard your name before, could you give us a quick 32nd name, rank and serial number?

Philip (00:19):
All right. Start the timer. My name's Philip Morgan. I help independent consultants thrive. I've arrived at this weird made up job for myself, starting with an interest in how specialization is the beachhead that provides this really outsized advantage. And I've ended up becoming generally interested in how sort of indie experts, you know, folks like yourself, Jonathan me, to an extent like how do we cultivate expertise and turn that into economic output. Hmm.

Jonathan (00:51):
Awesome. Love it. Yeah, totally aligned. Of course. So the, the sort of impetus for this particular interview was an email you sent out to your list with a subject line perpetually fascinating specialization. And you know, I guess someone sent this question into you.

Philip (01:10):
Yeah. When folks opt into my email list, I just redirect them immediately to a survey that says, Hey, you know, what's on your mind. What sort of questions do you have? It's totally optional whether they fill it out, but this question came in through that channel.

Jonathan (01:23):
Gotcha. Cool. And the question was, how do I discover the area of specialization that is both perpetually fascinating to me and valuable to the market? An age old question. Yeah. That's what we all want. Yeah. We, I get this all the time where people, you know, I, I talk about it in the context of positioning and, and, you know, becoming the go-to person for a particular something, you know, and, and it's, you're kind of like with, with me as a solo person or people that work with me who are solo, you're kind of dead in the water. If you don't have some kind of differentiator, because if you're just presenting yourself to the market as a, just another one of these things, you know, coder, developer designer, then you're not meaningfully different from anyone. Then you're going to have really powerful, downward pressure on your prices.

Jonathan (02:16):
No leverage in the negotiation. It's, this is a terrible place to be. It's much better to be the one and only of something instead of just one of many. And it just has a dramatic effect on the prices that you can charge. And also the impact that you can have, all of your marketing suddenly starts to work. Imagine that so, you know, we're super aligned on this, but the thing, the pushback that this reminds me of is that people have the fear as you coined it many years ago about specializing and, and there's a bunch of different ones, but a bunch of different fears of sort of three or four different fears it'll crop up. And, but this one comes up all the time where say to me I, I totally buy in on the idea of positioning and I understand why that would be good for me, but which position or which specialization, or they're not the same thing, but which focus do I pick? Like how do I pick the thing?

Philip (03:15):
Yeah. And it's, I mean, it really kind of gets to the heart of, I think, what is intimidating and scary and mysterious about this decision? It's a decision is maybe the first thing we should point out. Like we could, I could make 10 specialization decisions in the next minute. If I wanted to, the decision is free. It costs almost nothing, right? Like I could say, well, I want to specialize in actually the person who asked this question went on to say, I could specialize in underwater basket weaving, but I would not want to sink a lot of time and effort into marketing that unless I have some confidence that there's a market for it. So there's a lot going on there. But the first thing we should point out is like the decision costs, nothing. I think what people are worried about is the potential negative cost of the decision of like, Oh, I made the wrong decision or I made this decision and it looked great on paper and then it didn't pan out.

Philip (04:22):
So that's one thing I think we should talk about more today. And then the, there's another really, almost headline level aspect to this question, which is the question is saying, I want this to be perpetually fascinating. Yeah. And you know, when these questions come in through this form that I send people to, I don't have all the context. Right. So I feel a little, it feels a little risky to assume too much, but I just don't feel like anyone would use the word perpetually by accident, you know, like that's, that's associated with things like tombstones and, you know, big structures then, you know, in perpetual living memory of so-and-so it's, it's just not a word you toss around casually. So I assume that this person really was looking for a way of specializing. That would for them be always interesting.

Jonathan (05:17):
Yeah. Never boring. Yeah. Right. Yeah. There's the afraid they're going to get bored.

Philip (05:21):
Right. The answer is it doesn't exist. Like that's, that's the simple one sentence answer that that specialization does not exist for anybody. Yeah.

Jonathan (05:31):
It's kind of like, it's kind of like an oxymoron. Like if you're actually specializing it almost can't get boring.

Philip (05:38):
That's the thing is I I'd be curious about your experience with pricing. It probably like your specialization Jonathan in pricing, because I don't think it'll quite fit the pattern, but if there is a pattern, I think you could say you do need to be prepared for things to temporarily get and I'm pausing on purpose because I'm not sure boring is the right word. Maybe simpler, maybe less chaotic. And then after you get through a phase of that, things will get way more interesting.

Jonathan (06:16):
Yep. Yeah. It's like S-curves and you keep breaking through, so you go up, you go up the learning curve that you're on and you get to the top and you're like, Oh, I guess, okay. I guess I look right. And then you're like, Whoa, new door opens. Right. And it's, I mean, the S-curve thing is generally in an ascending, you know, learning curve going up. And, you know, if you imagine an S curve, it's sort of like as a steep incline at the beginning, and then it tapers off it plateaus and then it another steep learning curve and then it plateaus. But really there's a reverse metaphor of, you're just going deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole and finding new caverns to explore. Yeah.

Philip (06:55):
I, I have this sort of mental model of the human skin, this grosses some people out, which makes it even more fun for me to use. But you know, when you specialize, it's like you're getting a hypodermic needle so that you can Pierce the outer layer of the skin, the epidermis, it's mostly dead skin cells. It's very thin. There's not much going on there. There's something there, but you have to get through it to get to the good stuff, which is the dermis and the hypodermis of the skin. I thought, you know, when I first laid hold of some of these ideas about specialization and started exploring them and I was like, Oh, I'm an expert after six months in this. But that was the epidermis that was, you know, the thin dead layer where everything is kind of over simplified. And there's not a lot of nuance.

Philip (07:48):
And I think anyone who's gone deep into a topic can look back on those early days and maybe they look back on them wistfully and say, well, things got really way more complicated. Once I under really understood what was going on in this domain that I'm focused on, or maybe you like me feel a little bit embarrassed about the kind of advice you were giving then where it was. It was oversimplified. Once you get to the deeper layers of expertise, you start to things get really interesting because you have to learn more from adjacent topics and sort of synthesize a kind of custom medicine that, that you apply to your problem. So let's pick on you, Jonathan, like you're, you're focused on pricing. If you were to just off the top of your head list, two topics that are not explicitly pricing topics that you have to know something about in order to help people with pricing. Oh yeah. What does that list look like? Just name a few,

Jonathan (08:49):
Top three are positioning is number one. It's the foundation of everything publishing. So that it's broadly speaking that would be speaking at conferences writing books, daily, email podcasting, and the third one is pricing itself. So that would be the, the different ways to price, but you can't do a good job with, with, without all three of those things. So in underneath, underneath each one of those top level topics, there are dozens and dozens of, of considerations. I mean, I teach entire courses on subtopics of one of these top topics. So yeah, it's just endless.

Philip (09:28):
Yeah. I mean, just to drill into the positioning thing, there's like psychology of, because you're not you and I are both working largely with individuals, solar preneurs. Yeah. So their psychology has this outsized impact on, on their ability to implement. You could give them 10 good decisions. And if it's me, I'll screw up eight of them because I don't have the psychology to implement those 10 good ideas. So there's psychology, there's risk profile. Like how do you respond to risk? There's you know, like in the publishing world, how good do you look on camera? Like your eyes dart around and you look like you're nervous and your skin's a little sweaty and maybe you should choose audio. Like there's all these things that you and I have both had to get up to speed on in order to give advice. That's not over simplified. And I think that maps to almost anybody who has specialized, they get past that outer layer of the, of the expertise. And then they there's this whole world of it's not chasing shiny objects. It's finding the missing pieces so that you can deliver a solution.

Jonathan (10:38):
Yeah. That's a great way to put it. Yes. That's exactly how it feels to me too. You're looking at you like, cause you know, when you're, when you're coaching people, you've got this real-time laboratory with instant feedback, you know? So you, you can, it's one thing to have all these ideas and like you said, early on, I knew what worked for me and I knew it was, I trusted that it was going to work for me. You know, this process of specialization in my, in what I was focused on when I went solo, right. I was highly confident was going to work because I was copying my ex boss, who I just ran his playbook. It worked for him. And then I did it and it worked for me, but it was, that's kind of like saying, like I stole this car and I knew how to drive it, but I didn't know what was going on under the hood.

Jonathan (11:24):
I didn't know why it worked. Right. So, you know, I could tell people, look, you need to be, I didn't even, I don't even think I was using the word positioning back then. It was like, you need to become the go-to person for something. At the time, years ago, when I first started coaching people, I was like, just, you know, this exact topic, just pick something. It doesn't matter. Just pick something and be like, but what, anything, what are you most interested in? And then you come to find out that they can't do it. Like they cannot make themselves do so then opens up a whole rabbit hole of me being like, all right, let me lift up the hood on this car and see what's going on in here. Right. And you know, just like a bottomless, well of fun, new things to learn too, to help you be more effective at helping other people get over these hurdles.

Philip (12:07):
One of the complications that gets introduced then is you have this this decision that you've made, okay, I'm gonna help people with pricing, right? And now, you know, all this really cool stuff, it wasn't shiny object. It wasn't the pursuit of shiny objects. It was the pursuit of the components for a complete solution where you reduce the failure rate of your work. And you're, you're just, you're effective more frequently because you know, you have all these pieces that you can bring to bear on this problem. That's that seems simple at first. And now you realize, Oh, there's a whole engine under here. Eight cylinder internal combustion engine. Anyway. how much of that do you start exposing to people? That's one of the complications that comes up in that middle layer. But you haven't really, you have not to be clear, really changed the specialization and now, and you've, you've got this whole Vista of stuff to learn about and it's exciting because it makes you better at what you do. It's not, it's not like a distraction. It's not a relief from boredom. It's, it's just a quest of something that works more robustly more effectively.

Jonathan (13:21):
Yeah. It's the relief of tension that has been created through failure. So, so like, it feels like hunting for puzzle pieces, but that's not the greatest metaphor because with a puzzle you can sort of see what's missing. Right. But with the, with what you're talking about, it's almost like you think in the early stage, you think the puzzle is done and then you find that there's a whole section that you missed and the like, and then that creates this tension or like a hunger or itch that you need to scratch. So it's yeah, like you said, it's not like, Oh, I'm bored. Let's learn how to do Kubernetes today. You know, for no reason, just because it's people are talking about it. You're like, what's that, it's, it's very different from that. It's more like it feels much more urgent and there's almost never a question about where to find the piece. It's more like, okay, I see this hole where, how do I fill that hole? It's very directed.

Philip (14:14):
Yeah. It's, it's innovate. It's innovation work. It's invention. Exactly. But you don't get to do it unless you get through the outer layer. That's the thing is at the outer layer you think, Oh, just, you know, raise your prices, negotiate on value. You know, you have these ideas that are true, but they're simplistic versions of the real thing. Right. But so you don't really know what all that innovation work is going to look like when you're in this early phase of specialization. So I'm really sympathetic to folks who are like, this is a difficult, because I don't know. It's sort of like if you, I guess if you have kids and you're trying to help them learn a form of discipline and you can see all the ways it's gonna pay off later in their life to have this discipline, whatever it is. But they can't.

Philip (15:09):
And they're like, just why it's a little bit like that, I suppose. Yeah. Yeah. So there's, there's that quality of like, you don't know what's underneath the skin, the surface layer of the skin. And so you're, you're trying to make this decision about specialization without that knowledge and the thing is, you can't know, you just have to trust yourself, all the, the research skills, all the skills that you've built up this far in your life. You'll get to use them as a, to assemble that complete solution and you'll build new skills as well, but you just don't know exactly what that's gonna look like. The other thing that I think is worth pointing out is something that you mentioned choose anything, just choose anything, just start you were I think it's fair to say giving that advice because you just wanted to help people get over an obstacle. But it was kind of a blunt instrument, right? Like

Jonathan (16:09):
T hat doesn't work. Yeah.

Philip (16:12):
There is. You're recognizing something that's true about specializing, which is you get a few years to figure it out as you're doing it. Nothing is set in stone at that early stage. This is less true with larger organizations where you've got a staff and you need to create alignment and you can't whip solve them around every six months with a different direction. But with just you, as a soloist, you can do that for a while. And the whip sawing is an extreme version of what might happen. This might be more like fine tuning. I like using the analogy of something you probably can't really do, which is get in a kayak on Lake Mead and kayak up to the face of the Hoover dam. They probably won't let you do that for a good reason, but along the way, there's some hazards. There's these intake towers that suck, I don't know, thousands of gallons of water a minute into the turbines that at, at Hoover dam.

Philip (17:13):
And it would be possible I suppose, to steer your kayak and went to the one of those intake towers. Again, reality is not as exciting. You probably wouldn't get sucked in. They have great so over them. But I like to use that analogy because it's really is what it's like. You would have to, to end up getting sucked into the, you know, the intake of the Hoover dam. You'd have to ignore so much information as you were kayaking towards your intended destination. You just would have to like close your eyes and have earplugs. And, and just blindly reality is not like that. Do you get what I'm saying? So, yeah,

Jonathan (17:53):
You'd almost have to be, you know, it would be, you'd have to have a, I don't want to use the word suicidal, but like, you'd be trying to create commit career suicide. You have to like try to do it, but people are afraid it's just accidentally going to happen. It's like they it's like, they're acting like they're walking on a tight rope between two skyscrapers and really it's on the ground.

Philip (18:13):
We must have something in our head that gives us this inaccurate model of how it works. Like it. I don't think it's some mass delusion. I think there's something about, I mean, I say, I say much less than half jokingly. This is not a face tattoo that you're getting on your face. When you decide to specialize, where if the tattoo artist is having an off day, you shouldn't have to live with that for the rest of your life. It's not like that at all, but there's something in us. Most of us that makes us think that it is. And I'm not quite sure what I haven't figured that out yet, but I have a hypothesis I'd love to hear it.

Jonathan (18:49):
I th S specializing, I think it has. I think it has everything to do with standing out from the crowd, which on an evolutionary timescale, that was an extremely risky thing to do. So you want to fit in

Philip (19:02):
For the majority of Yardi of

Jonathan (19:05):
The time, the vast majority of the time that humans have been on the earth, a really bad thing to do would be to go off on your own. And, and it's, it always felt the comfort zone was, this is a Seth Goden ism, but the comfort zone and the safety zone were like the Venn diagram was one circle inside of another circle, completely inside. So like it was both safe and comfortable to stay with the crowd. But now these days, the safety zone is completely outside of the comfort zone. So the things that feel comfortable are not safe for at least in a business sense. If you don't stand apart from the crowd, you are just, you know, I already said, it's like, you're just one of many. So of course people are going to go for the cheapest one. You need to stand apart from all, you know, you need to do something different from everyone else, which feels like career suicide, right? So I suspect that there's a connection there between that sort of tribal mentality. That was her brain stuff. Cause that the reaction that you get, I'm sure you've had the same experience, but the reaction that I get from a non-trivial percentage of people who are facing the idea of focusing down niching down, or getting a more tighter specialization or positioning themselves very tightly, it is an irrational response to the suggestion and your, your rational level of,

Philip (20:25):
Yeah, it's helpful to remember that one of the just core fundamental problems that the internet poses is this oversupply of information. So, you know, earlier in our conversation, Jonathan, you were talking about the benefits, thank you, by the way, for selling this idea for me, the benefits of specializing, they go even further upstream than where started, which was, you know, all the sort of once you're talking to a perspective, client benefits, but even just earning the visibility needed to get inbound inquiries is dramatically easier when you've specialized, it doesn't happen automatically. It just starts to solve one of these big problems that we all face, which is the internet is, you know, a million fire hoses of information pointed at whoever wants to stand in front of it. So and increasingly that's all of us, all humans anyway. So 

Jonathan (21:23):
How do you break through, how do you it's it's this it's funny because people do want inbound leads. People do want to S to to, to be differentiated. Like people don't mind that idea for some reason, they're okay with like, Oh yeah, I want to be differentiated. But when it, but they're under understood or their imagination of what's going to get them, there is usually like a complete miscalculation, you know, like the differentiation, the typical safe style differentiation with say a software developer that I'll be talking to, they'll say something like they'll point to their competitors and say that they're like, Oh, I'm better than Bob. I'm better than all of these guys, you know, these other guys and gals. And it's like, but the differentiators that they lean on are not meaningful to their ideal buyers. Like even, even though they haven't picked an ideal buyer, I'm positive that anybody who would be willing to, to pay Bob the developer a bunch of money is going to be someone who doesn't understand 99.9, 9% of what Bob does. He just understands the outcome that Bob can deliver this. So for Bob to be better than Alice at something is meaningless to the customer. So that the differentiate so that, so like, yeah, I'm, I'm different in some way that only I understand, or that is that even if I could explain it, my buyers wouldn't understand. Yeah.

Philip (22:51):
I think you know, a good sort of challenge for listeners would be like, if they hear you talking about that and say, well, what else, how else do you differentiate? You know, like I'm used to running a factory. And I like to brag about the efficiency of the conveyor belt. Right. right. Actually did visit a tile factory in Spain a few years ago. This was connected to work. My wife does. She runs a podcast for this big Spanish tile company. And they had actually a very, I mean, this stuff is interesting. I say this to make us not sound like out of touch jerks. We saw the conveyor belt that took the product from the manufacturing floor to a warehouse that was next door. And it was really cool. They had it on like a tourist three degree incline so that it would use less electricity. There is beautiful, really cool stuff that goes into that level of nuance. But the challenge for listeners, if they're saying, well, you know, what else, how else can you differentiate is I would say, ask yourself, how do I help my clients respond to, or initiate change in a way that it really helps the clients? And that might be an interesting sort of thought experiment that helps take you out of thinking about how many degrees of incliner on the conveyor belt, right?

Jonathan (24:14):
Yeah. I love that visual. So like just take that one step further and drive it home. If you were buying tile and it's set on the box, some information about the two degree incline on the conveyor belt, in the factory in Italy that is not going to cause you to want to spend more money on the tile. Like if, if you get the tile right next to it, that looks essentially the same to you. You don't see any meaningful difference. It's $5 cheaper per box. And the only difference between the two was delivered to two degree incline conveyor belt, right. You don't care, you don't care

Philip (24:50):
Have the context to even understand what that means. Yeah, yeah.

Jonathan (24:54):
Yeah. So you're not going to pay more for it is the point.

Philip (24:57):
So yeah. Think, think about how you help your clients respond to or initiate change, because that kind of pulls you up to the level of the business and the profit and loss sheet. You're probably not comfortable there. That's fine. Starting to be sympathetic to those concerns, I think is, is a route out of that kind of Naval gazing, focus on your craft, which is important and beautiful. Not denying that, but you have to say, what does that, and what does that, that excellence of craft in service of, and if the answer really, really, really is, well, I don't know. I just want to be good at this craft. I don't really care about anything else. Then probably you can make that work as a career. It's just, you're going to face some limited.

Jonathan (25:44):
Yeah. Get a job, you get a job doing it, right. If you're running a business, you can't not do marketing. Like not doesn't doesn't happen. Like there's a reason. Every big company has a CMO. Like the executive suite has a marketer. Yeah. Pretty much. I, you know, if there's an exception, I don't know about it. And the, the other you might like this one where we have like, it's like Metta metaphor, volleyball here. The like, which I guess is a metaphor unto itself. But I was talking to the other day about the sort of navel gazing on the craft. And like you said, I love it. It's great. It's, it's a phase though. And it reminds me of, you know, I, a guitar player performing musician for years, it reminds me of the fees as a guitarist where you're like, you're in your bedroom and you're so new to it that you're like looking at your hands.

Jonathan (26:32):
You can't even play what you can't even look up. You're just staring at your left hand. And then you look at your right hand and you put the finger, you know, on this fret. And then you plug the string with your right hand. And eventually you get better at it and better at it, better at it. And you know, maybe someday in this progression, you'll be on stage in front of a group of people, but you still might be looking down at your guitar, thinking about your craft instead of looking up and caring about how the audience is reacting to your performance. That's a huge leap. It's a huge leap. When you finally look up and start to at least empathize with the audience, like you said, at least start to think, even if you don't understand, you know, the balance sheet stuff recognize that that's a major concern of the people who are hiring you. And so, you know, I usually talk about, you know, like what's the transformation, what's the transformation that they want you to contribute to? You know, which is basically another way to say what you said already, which is like, what is the change, right?

Philip (27:30):
That, that can become a sort of magnetic force that takes you to the deepest level of expertise, the hypodermis of expertise to use our skin analogy. And I, you know, I like to say that that's where context goes, supernova. You start to care about the broader context that your work exists in. Hopefully you have, I'm describing this as a linear progression. It's not quite so linear in reality, but hopefully you have a solution that works better than that superficial version did. And then you start to think about context, like, huh? Why does this person in this job role always seem like they resist this kind of change? It's not some, it's not arbitrary. It's not dumb. You're starting to recognize a pattern. That's a by-product of the context that you're working in. And then you realize, Oh, I mean, maybe it's not something so exotic.

Philip (28:27):
And you're just like, well, their salary depends on them resisting this change. Like it's not going to go well for them. If they do anything other than resistant, it might be something simple. But you start to think about and care about and sort of interact with the larger context that you work with them. And I think that's maybe one of the main things that's going on at the deepest level of expertise. And, you know, if you think about yourself as a performer, trying to connect with an audience that that idea that you could move, the audience kind of becomes a motivating factor.

Jonathan (28:59):
Sure. Yeah. It's, it's a related but different. Is it a different skill? It kind of is so like the, for any developers listening to this, when, when a developer goes through software developer goes through this phase, it's right around the time when they stop feeling any desire to learn new frameworks, new frameworks come out all the time. And there's always some new shiny hotness. And at a certain point you can tell like when you start to feel the fatigue and it doesn't seem like fun to learn the new, whatever the new flavor of the week, it seems like a, just a hamster wheel. Yeah. I I've, I think that's a fork in the road. That's an opportunity for you to either Chuck it all and go be a garbage man or say like, well, wait a second. How can I, how can I with the tools that I have?

Jonathan (29:51):
How can I have a bigger impact on the people who are hiring me? So it's, that's the point where you start to think about your craft last you've mastered not the entire Corpus of like software development knowledge. And I doubt anyone because I'm sure no one could sure. Just changes too fast, but at a certain point, you're really, really, you have mastered the tools that you've chosen. And, and you're not, you're a little bit less, I don't want to say bored, but yeah, it's a little bit like bored and you're kind of bored with the tools that you have, but you're amazing at them. And then this new hotness comes out and it's like, do I really want to learn? Do I really want to go all the way back down the learning curve and in like, what's that even going to do for me if I do.

Jonathan (30:34):
And that's the fork in the road where you can either say, forget it, I'm going to just change careers or I'm going to go in-house and just do, I'm just going to do what I do now until nobody needs it anymore, you know? Or you can start to focus on the audience, you know, and be like, like, Oh, well and, and what that looks like is talking to them and learning things like, well, why did you, you know, reaching back out to an old client, remember that project? We did, you know, why did you even want to do that? You know, like what, what was the benefit? And I, I have the exercise that I had people do. The actionable thing that people can do is reach back out to their clients, say, Hey, I'm updating my website. Could you, you know, could you give me a testimonial for the project that we worked on together?

Jonathan (31:19):
And here's six questions if they say yes, here are six questions that you could answer and they'll give you a results-based testimonial. And the, the thing about that exercise is it, because the thing, the thing about that exercise is that articulates to the, the software developer, like my student, it articulates to them, their client articulates to them, the value. And it, it has nothing to do with elegant code. It has nothing to do with like, like your mastery of your skill, nothing. It's always really high level stuff. Like it transformed our business. Oh, how well are our conversion rate doubled or are our workflow so smooth that we were able to scale to other regions is really high-level business stuff, you know? And, and it opens the person's eyes to like, Oh, wow. The whole time. You know, I just felt like I was writing amazing code.

Jonathan (32:13):
But really what I was doing was creating this transformation, you know, and yeah, it's this it's that this is that point when you're kind of bored of what you do or you feel like you've, you've, you have the sense of mastery. It might not be boring. You might still like it. But but you're, you're turned off by the idea of constantly learning a new framework. And then you can, that is the point where you say to yourself, huh? Maybe I should focus. Maybe I should focus on the audience like Bruce, Springsteen's a guitar player and a mediocre singer, but he is so focused on the audience that he creates an amazing experience using this sort of limited tool set that he has. I mean, he's, he's a great musician, but you know, he's, he's a great performer. He's not a virtuoso on the instrument, but he doesn't need to be because he knows how to connect with the audience and get them what they want. That's a great, yeah.

Philip (33:00):
Example. I have always enjoyed the NPR tiny desk concert series, which you can find on YouTube pretty easily, at least here in the United States. So they've during the pandemic have been inviting artists to, you know, record something at home or in some local venue and, and send it in. And the difference is so interesting. I think it speaks to what you're just talking about Jonathan too, to look at. It's not, I mean, sometimes it's the same artist that has performed physically there at their, I dunno, Washington DC or New York or wherever, wherever those are recorded with a small audience there and then recording usually where the audience is like the camera dude, right. Who's operating the camera. It's palpable. And it really is a nice sort of artsy metaphor for what happens when you start thinking about the, the context where your work exists and how it can, how it did or did not have impact in that context. And then how it could have more impact if you change some things about how you approach it. So that's just a fun thing. Folks can do. It's not exactly a direct teaching instrument to look at some YouTube videos, but it's the same feeling

Jonathan (34:21):
Really? Yeah. Yeah. When you're a performer, like what you're describing. It's nice to know that it is obvious to the audience. Because you know, it's like I used to play a, I literally gave myself carpal tunnel syndrome playing like 18 hours a day. I would like just eat, sleep and drink the guitar for a long time. And it was the same way when I first really got into coding professionally, it was just loved. I just loved the F the, the physicality of it. I just loved everything about it. But now I can't barely make myself play in my bedroom. You know? Like, what's the point? There's no, like, because I've gotten to that point where it's like, yeah, this, this is my set of tools. I'm not going to learn sacks at this point. I'm not gonna, I'm not gonna start doing jazz fusion.

Jonathan (35:06):
I'm like Doby heavy metal, like rock guy. Yeah. So that, that's kind of, not that I couldn't branch out into something else, but it's just not interesting to me at this point. So what would make it interesting is an audience, honestly, and it's not interesting if there's no audience, so it's just like really boring. It's the same, it's the same with this stuff now, like when I do a solo podcast episode, I'm not talking to someone or it's not a webinar with like an audience I have, I was like, ah, I have to start over a hundred times. And it's just like no energy to it. Just like the, there's just no wind in the sail. If you're not connecting, even if you can't see the other people, if you know, they're there, there's like a different kind of energy and it's, it's it's, and it's scary, right? It's scary to look up from your fingers and start and see like a thousand pairs of eyes staring back at you. It's, that can be a lot of pressure, but that's the Mo that's the, you know, you need to muster up the courage to get to, I guess, get over that hump or whatever it is, and start to worry about their experience, the client experience.

Philip (36:10):
That's what I love about the kind of human beings who hire me to help with some part of this journey and maybe it's most human beings. I'd like to think that it is, you get to that point where bored, you, you are bored. And instead of it being a destructive thing, it's like a, it's a creative thing that leads you to say, what is, okay, I'm good at X, I've gotten past the superficial level with this, but what does it really for, like, for what purpose am I good at X? And one answer. It's not the only answer a one answer is, Oh, I could help a lot more people. If I, if I acquire some new skills, learn some new things, push, push into and beyond an area of discomfort. Wow. I could, it's not that you and I think are not trying to push people to build some kind of audience-based business when we use audience that word. I think folks should not take that too literally, but they, they, they could think of the group, the, the broader, larger group of people that they could benefit you know, their skills could benefit them. And, and that creates this growth that takes you deeper into expertise and into mastery, maybe the mastery of your skills doesn't increase. And it's a sort of a new learning. And that ultimately is why, when someone says, you know, I want to make one decision about an area of focus. That's going to be perpetually

Jonathan (37:39):
Fascinating to bring it back, right? Yeah.

Philip (37:42):
I say, that's not going to happen, but something better will happen. And what, what that better looks like is you'll make a choice. You'll fine. Tune it in the early days. And then you'll find traction because you're listening, you're paying attention to what is happening in the market. And then that traction will take you deeper. You'll become dissatisfied with your simplistic skills. So you'll build this more complex sort of composite of multiple skills, and then you'll get bored again. And then you'll be like, what is this really for? Like, why am I doing this? And know, maybe you'll do the middle-aged man thing. If you're a middle-aged man and get a divorce and a sports car, but maybe instead you will go to that deepest level and you'll start electrifying your audience with something about your expertise. Right. That's what I love about you know, the work that I do. And I think that you do Jonathan is is that it, it, it gets people to these points of frustration and then gets, it, gets them through those points of frustration,

Jonathan (38:48):
Right? Yeah. It creates tension and release more music metaphor. Yeah. So what's the takeaway here? Are we trying to open people's eyes to those moments that are kind of like full of opportunity where they're kind of bored?

Philip (39:03):
Yeah. I mean, there's, there's an aspect of that. That probably is a great place to leave it. I mean, I'll, I'll probably undermine myself a little bit here by saying that the kind of system that surrounds where you specialize does seem to matter. I don't have like clear, easy ways of explaining it, but there are systems that are a little bit more open and if you specialize in those, something in the, in those systems, even if they are a platform, they'll probably be more interesting. And there's just more opportunity there.

Jonathan (39:39):
That's a great point. Yeah. Can I just pile on there?

Philip (39:43):
Yeah. And let me try to set you up for that. Like you, you specialized in mobile computing when you were doing a strategy consulting. Right. and th that strikes me as an open system, and I think that's why that specialization lasted for as long as it did for you before the system kind of got less open and, you know, the consolidated and the established players were pretty obvious. And anyway, maybe that's the thing to talk about.

Jonathan (40:11):
Yeah. So that's, yeah, that is perfect. So the previous, my previous specialization to the mobile consulting was was I was a FileMaker consultant and FileMaker is a really, really small closed system. It's powerful thing. If any FileMaker developers are listening, I'm not ragging on FileMaker, but there, there was a point in time where I'd been doing, doing it professionally for like maybe five years. It's just not that complicated a piece of software. And it really felt like months would go by and I wouldn't learn a new thing about it. And it was like, I was totally plateaued at, it was like, nobody knows everything about everything, but there was not a lot that I knew about that. There was not a lot that I didn't know about that software that mattered. Yeah. Right. And so it was a characteristic of closed systems. Yep. Yeah. Very closed system in the scheme of things

Philip (41:02):
Controlled by one company, right?

Jonathan (41:05):
Yes. And you couldn't have much influence over it. It didn't change very frequently back then, especially it was very slow moving. You know, it was a shrink wrap software for crying out loud, so that, so then I, then I moved to the mobile consulting, which is a, a more open system, but not as open as what I'm doing now, which is pricing, which is essentially psychology, but which is way more, and I can feel the, I won't live long enough to exhaust the possibilities of exploring pricing. I think it's the most fascinating puzzle or focus that imaginable to me. So I, I absolutely love it, but I just wanted to give examples of like, you know, it's like a spectrum, you know, there's like this really close system, like FileMaker, you can, you can actually get to the edges of it in a few years and be like, huh, okay. I guess that's how that works. And then a bigger system, more players, more complex ecosystem, and then like a giant global like, like pricing touches all 7 billion plus people on the planet every day. Yeah. Yeah. It's

Philip (42:18):
Well, I mean, it's interesting because the hot take of an outsider about pricing might be like, Oh, that seems simple. You just charge more, right.

Jonathan (42:27):
The case closed.

Philip (42:28):
Whereas, you know, some even, even a relatively simple software platform platform like Salesforce or FileMaker, or, you know, name your, your sort of closed ish platform

Jonathan (42:41):
G suite, it would take

Philip (42:43):
A few years to master that maybe not Trello Trello. Anyway. if I think listeners get the point on the surface pricing seems simpler, but it's an open system and it's massive in scale. And as a heuristic that is almost always going to lead to a more interesting specialization. We might even say perpetually interesting.

Jonathan (43:08):
Yeah.

Jonathan (43:09):
Well, there you have it folks. Cool. Geez. I feel like we should do this more often. It's like I don't think we've talked in like over a year, at least. I know that pandemic, man.

Philip (43:21):
Yeah. This has been great. And I don't know if we have exhausted the listeners patients, but hopefully not. Hopefully this has been really interesting as interesting and hopefully as valuable.

Jonathan (43:33):
Oh, cool. Well, where can people find out more, maybe join your mailing list

Philip (43:38):
Could go to Phillip Morgan consulting.com. There's one L in Philip. If they wanted to, they could go to positioning crash course.com and they could take an email course there that talks about some of this stuff. I'm going to be honest, that course is a little bit out of date. It needs to be updated, but it's a good starting point.

Jonathan (43:56):
All right, Phillip, thanks so much for joining me. I really appreciate it. And I think people are going to value it.

Philip (44:01):
Great. Being here with you, Jonathan.

Jonathan (44:03):
All right. That's it for this time. I'm Jonathan Stark and this is ditching hourly. Would you like to learn how to get paid? What you're worth? How about selling your expertise and not your labor? What about making more money without working more hours? We worked through all of this together in the pricing seminar registration starts soon. So head on over to the pricing seminar.com to add your name to the announcement list. That URL again is the pricing seminar.com. I hope to see you there.


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