🧑🏼‍🚀 Blueprint 024

Overthinking, becoming one of one, Zach Pogrob, niche targeting served three ways

Welcome back to Blueprint, a weekly series where I share an unfiltered, behind-the-scenes look into my journey as a full-time entrepreneur & creator.

It’s been 24 weeks since I went on my own full-time.

Today’s topics:

  • 📈 | Week 24 recap and metrics

  • 😵 | Overthinking

  • 🧩 | Becoming one of one

  • 🏴 | Zach Pogrob, obsession, and the dark place

  • 🎯 | Niche targeting, served three ways

A reminder that this internet game is not zero-sum. Everyone reading this can win at an unlimited scale. I’m writing this for the internet astronauts building their own digital worlds. If that’s you…let’s ride ✌🏼👩🏻‍🚀

WEEKLY RECAP
Recap

I’ve been overthinking a lot lately.

Which direction do I go in? Who do I want to become on the internet? How do I monetize? Etc.

Hundreds of questions that became sludge in my creative pipes.

When I look back objectively at the last ~6 weeks, it’s clear that my output and hit rate went way down.

I was “doing” more, but actually accomplishing less.

Why was this happening?

I’m the type of person that loves thinking about strategy and gameplay. If I do X, and Y happens, what could my next 3 moves look like, etc.

But the truth is…“thinking about strategy” is almost always procrastinating the actual work that needs to be done. It’s important to set strategy initially, but this can be done in 24 hours and gut checked quarterly. Anything beyond that is just procrastination.

So I zoomed out to 30,000 feet and tried to reflect on where I went wrong.

I think it’ll be helpful to walk you through what I learned and how I learned it.

Here we go…

At the beginning of my content journey, I was a nobody (zero internet credibility) with zero skills (never made videos).

So the strategy was actually very simple…learn how to make great content.

That’s it.

I wasn’t thinking about money, or future products, or building an agency, or brand deals…just about how to close the skill gap to make dope content consistently.

Singularly focused…obsessed about it.

In the back of my head, I knew that all of those money moves would come into play at some point in the future, but they were so far out of reach at the time, I didn’t spend any cycles thinking about them.

I assumed and accepted it would take ~3 years before any of them would be feasible. In other words, 3 years of only making content with zero expectation of money or products.

But then something very unexpected happened.

My content start hitting much sooner than I thought it would.

6 months in, I had 250K+ followers and could make things go viral at will.

So I thought to myself…hmmm, maybe I was just being too conservative about the 3 year timeline. I guess I was wrong…let’s start putting things into motion now.

And that started me on this wild goose chase of monetization and scaling.

If you’ve been reading for a while, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.

All of a sudden I went from spending 100% of my time on content to 50% of my time on content and the other 50% trying to figure out if I should cofound an agency, make a course, build my own SaaS tool, hire a team, and 100 other non-content things.

After reflection, I realized my intent was right, but my timing was wrong.

If you really study MKBHD, Mr. Beast, Logan Paul, or any of the mega-famous creators with owned products today, you’ll realize that many of them spent 5-10 years doing nothing except content before they started monetizing at all.

In their come up seasons, creator product business didn’t really exist. 

In a way, ignorance of those models was bliss because it was harder for them to get distracted chasing something that hadn’t been done before.

Secondly, most of those people weren’t business-first thinkers. Many of them are incredible entrepreneurs today, but their native instinct was to be the creative/artist and outsource the business side.

In other words, they weren’t proactively looking for businesses to start.

The combination of these two things forced them into a 5-10 year window singularly focused on making great content.

Instead of hunting for locks that their one key could open, they spent years making dozens of keys.

They all built incredible levels of trust over years with their audiences, and that was the foundational layer for everything else they put into motion decades later.

Fast forward to me today:

  1. Because of them, I now have the creator-product blueprint. All I’d have to do is follow the moves they made, tweak for taste, and be on my way

  2. I’m a business-first thinker. Went to business school, worked in management consulting, love thinking about the business strategy angle

The combination of these two factors, in my case, led me to jump the gun for monetization and scale.

Blowing up fast is helpful for opening doors, but you can’t shortcut building a cult.

There’s a concept that explains this called the Lindy Effect.

It basically says that the longer something has been around, the better chance it has of being around in the future.

A simple example is that Mars candy (maker of M&Ms, Skittles, Snickers, Twix) was founded 113 years ago. Hu Chocolate was founded 12 years ago. I love Hu, but if I had to bet which would be around 50 years from now, I’m taking Mars 100 times out of a 100.

My early traction was awesome, but it headfaked me into thinking I had built a big enough cult to stop obsessively nurturing it.

What I realized is that although I have an amazing foundation of early supporters that like me (enough to fill many football stadiums), I still need to put my head down and double down on growing it (both wide and deep).

How does this realization shift my approach?

  • Focus: My primary focus for the foreseeable future is to be obsessed with making great content (short videos, long videos, newsletter, podcast). Nothing else matters for me right now. For video, I need to learn how to actually be dope at making any kind of video. By the end of this year, I want to be able to take any brand and deploy a video strategy to make them grow, across any format. A true content weapon. This means learning DaVinci, color grading, composition, true sound design, etc.

  • Format: To build trust, you need depth. To build depth, you need to open the portal into your personality. My newscaster style info shorts highlight one side of me, but they can’t be the only thing I produce. Look for me to use lots of different formats to help build depth (e.g., more vlog style, walk and talks, video blueprint, product reviews, etc.)

  • Monetization: I can’t afford to spin on opportunities without seasoned operators. I’m going to be extremely selective with the teams I collaborate with and skew my active hours towards things that fully overlap with my content growth

As you read these posts, I know my thinking can seem a little wishy-washy from week to week.

Bro, you just said something directly opposite of this last week?!

This is what it’s actually like when you’re in the trenches…constantly taking in new data and readjusting your aim.

BECOMING ONE OF ONE
Becoming one of one

The concept I’m most obsessed with right now is becoming one of one.

This is my only content strategy. All eggs are in this basket.

What does it mean to be one of one?

It means that you own your category. You are the best one like you. People know you because you’ve pioneered a new lane or become the best within it. You’re rare. You’re a unicorn.

Being one of one is where all the gold is.

When you become known for being one of one, people want to work with you because you’re you, not because you talk about a certain topic or have a certain skill.

The best example of this is Joe Rogan.

Joe Rogan has a podcast where he interviews interesting people. He also happens to have the biggest podcast in the world.

But there are plenty of other massive podcasts that interview interesting people…this isn’t what makes him one of one.

What makes him one of one is the unique combination of his interests…comedy + podcasting + MMA + bow hunting + science + UFOs…and skills…comedian + MMA blackbelt + FearFactor host + UFC commentator.

In the Venn Diagram of all the interests/skills in the world, Joe Rogan is the “best” with this unique combination.

Now surely there are people that are better (both deeper interest and more advanced skill) than Joe in each individual category (e.g., Royce Gracie [MMA], Cam Hanes [Bow Hunting], Dan Carlin [podcasting]), but no one is better at the unique intersection of all of them.

But this is where things get tricky…

Just because you have a unique set of interests/skills, that doesn’t necessarily mean you will be more successful than someone else with their own unique set in a different category.

For example, if you’re the “best” at the intersection of AI + theater, maybe your unique skills aren’t as well suited for internet scale as the person that’s best at the intersection of AI + sports.

When you layer on financial success, many more things come into play (e.g., market size, market interest, momentum, virality, growth, etc.).

But it will be much easier to become known as the AI + theater guy than just the AI guy.

And that’s because as the AI + theater guy, you have a more unique lens on the world.

Maybe you’re able to sing/perform as you talk about AI and that’s what the world wants.

The key to being one of one is owning your unique intersection of interests/skills.

The key to having massive financial success while being one of one is that you’re able to apply your unique intersection of interests/skills towards a business model that works in today’s world.

This helps explain why you often see “weird people” with little financial success become massively rich overnight when their niche becomes mainstream.

For example, in the early 2000s, the people at the intersection of sports + video games + commentary were likely poor and considered losers.

That’s because their “one of one” intersection was unique but not valuable to the world at that time.

Then esports got popular and all of a sudden those people were best positioned to capitalize on an emerging market model that the world wanted.

It’s not enough to be unique…you have to be unique at the right thing at the right time, or at least a time when there is a big enough niche of other people that will like you for that thing.

How to become one of one

Fortunately, there’s only one way to become one of one…find a unique set of interests/skills and become the best at them.

[eyeroll]

Interests are easiest when they’re authentic. It’s tough to pretend to be obsessed with something if you don’t actually like it.

Skills can be honed and developed from scratch.

The goal is then to pursue depth across all of these things based on your natural drift.

Eventually, if you keep pulling on those threads for long enough, you’ll become one of one at some unique intersection of them.

Hopefully the world/market is willing to pay for that unique intersection when you become that best at it.

It can be easy to overengineer this. I would say, just drift for a while and see what you like and then go hard into it.

Here’s an example of how I’m thinking about it…

My interests:

  • Product strategy/vision - thinking about the way products are designed and messaged to the world

  • Design - I love looking at amazing design

  • Business strategy - understanding and mapping how businesses win

  • Health - everything related to optimizing health

  • Tech/gear - physical & tech products

  • Sports - watching sports/playing sports

  • Psychology - thinking about why people do the things they do and how to persuade/compel/incentivize them in a business context

My current skills:

  • Storytelling - writing/visualizing a compelling story

  • Writing - Blueprint style, my POV on things

  • Idea generation - Coming up with new ways to solve nagging problems

  • Vision - Charting a new path of the future

  • Thinking in witty/metaphors - I think in metaphors

  • Shooting/flipping based drinking games - Sadly, I don’t think this will help me anymore

My desired skills (things I want to be better at):

  • Product design - to take a product from my vision to real

  • Video editing - to take a story from my vision to real

When you look at this combination of things, it’s not yet clear where the one of one sauce will come from.

But if I had to guess, in 10 years, I’ll be the best in the world at some combination of these things.

If I wasn’t excited about that reality, I should stop spending time getting better at the ones that didn’t excite me.

ZACH POGROB
Zach Pogrob

Was texting with Roberto this week about how amazing Zach Pogrob has been at brand building around obsession.

Zach had been posting daily content on Instagram for the past ~4 years, the majority under the handle @behaviorhack.

Most of his posts were in the feed, black and white (text-only) focused on mindset, productivity, and general life optimization hacks.

In early 2022, Zach pioneered the now popular black and white animated video reel (think Jack Butcher’s Visualize Value style designs but animated in video form with his voice over).

They blew up and his audience quickly grew to 1M+ followers.

Somewhere along the way, Zach had this idea to build a brand around obsession.

With the name @behaviorhack, the “obsession” DNA was already likely brewing from the start.

In 2023, he tripled down heavy on obsession. Everything he says, everything he does, every posts he creates, is based around that single word.

I wanted to write about Zach in this Blueprint edition because a) he’s a homie and b) he is now one of one around the word “obsession.”

His unique combination of interests (mindset, productivity, psychology, greatness, obsession) and skills (content creation, writing, animation vision, fitness etc) led him down a path where he is now super well known for this obsession concept.

I’d be lying if I said I knew how this obsession topic would manifest into products and services. I’m sure Zach would too.

But yesterday, he launched something that seems like a bullseye…a Run Cult.

Over the last couple months, Zach has become obsessed with running.

He had always been into health and fitness, but running became his primary health outlet.

You could literally see his mind and approach changing as the running obsession infected him (in the best way possible).

Starting Monday, he and 100 other people in New York are going to run the streets at dawn.

Again, it’s easy to connect the dots looking backwards, but at this point, who knows if the Run Cult will become a revenue source, his legacy, or just a fun thing he does.

It’s too early to tell.

But the lesson for me is this…

  • Level 1 Cult Building - Telling people about a particular topic by making content about others doing it

  • Level 2 Cult building - Showing people a particular topic by doing it yourself and documenting

Zach has now graduated from Level 1 (writing about obsessed people) to Level 2 (showcasing obsession via running).

I’d imagine things will begin to click even more for Zach + obsession as he documents the evolution of the Run Cult. Stoked to follow the Speed Demons along.

NICHE TARGETING
Niche targeting, served three ways

Anytime there’s a conventional way to do something, I like inverting and exploring alternatives to accomplish the same goal.

It clear that the easiest way to earn a living from content is to create content for a niche and then sell products/services to that niche.

Let’s take filmmakers, for example.

The most common path to create content for that niche is what I call “The Teacher.”

This would be making content that teaches other aspiring filmmakers how to be better filmmakers (e.g., here’s how you should light your scenes).

This type of content works super well because there is a clear path from content to product.

  1. Here’s how you should light your scenes

  2. Here’s the products you should use to do it

  3. Sell products

Super simple.

But there are other ways to also build trust within the filmmaker niche that may be less crowded.

A second is what I call, “The Entertainer.”

This is more or less what I’ve been doing with my info shorts.

The Entertainer makes content that a filmmaker audience would enjoy, but isn’t necessarily directly teaching them things.

For example, the entertainer might make content talking about the latest products to be released or reviewing cinematic strategies from Christopher Nolan films.

The Entertainer type content is harder to monetize initially, because it’s a less direct path from content to product…

  1. Here’s my take on Christopher Nolan movie filmmaking techniques

  2. By the way, I also sell this filmmaking product. You should use them

  3. Sell products

The Entertainer is relying much more on their reputation to sell the products vs a clearly demonstrated utility.

I’d say Peter McKinnon was king of this type of content for filmmakers.

He was a teacher from time to time too, but his entertainment content was his best work imo.

A third way to make content for a niche is called “The Documenter.”

In this case, a filmmaker is actually in the process of making a film but also makes content about that process, perhaps behind the scenes or occasional updates.

The Documenter has a clear path to sell products, but only the ones they are authentically using in their process.

Imo, documenters have the easiest time building trust with an audience because their content is most one of one.

The drawback is that it’s much harder to be a documenter, because it requires you actually doing the project you’re documenting and then also documenting it.

There’s no right or wrong way to serve a niche, all have worked and can work for any audience.

My strategy is to try and use a mix of all three. My current thinking is that sticking with a single content style gets boring and fatigues the audience after a while.

For me, I’ve pretty much stuch exclusively with the talking head info shorts style up to this point, but saw compelling feedback when I started sprinkling in my lifestyle vlogs.

Look for me to keep experimenting with different formats.

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