Afraid You Can't Top Your Last Big Hit? I Was.
Everyone loves an encore. Except Elvis. Elvis never played an encore. He just left the building.
This is my third article for Entrepreneur. My debut article was a hit. It was trending for a few days and was shared 3,300 times on social. The article discussed strategies that I used in my personal life to enter medical school at 35, start a business at 50 and write a book and start a speaking career at 63. The title evoked curiosity and caused thousands of people to open it, but it was the substance that caused more than 3,000 people to share it. I was proud and humbled by the response.
When it came time to write my second article, I had big shoes to fill, and they were my own. My second article discussed strategies to help people transition from employee to entrepreneur. I knew it was unrealistic to think I would get the same response to my second article as my first, but somehow I was hopeful.
The second article was shared only 450 times on social media, and it didn't trend for days, or even a day. Taken as a stand-alone experience, 450 social shares is a respectable response. But this wasn't a stand-alone experience so I thrust myself into comparison mode before the article ever hit the web.
I'm proud of my second article. I believe the ideas presented were valuable and worthy of recognition, but a question came to mind: What do you do when your second venture is not as well received as your first?
As entrepreneurs, we face this problem daily. You have a clothing store in town that does very well. You open a second location a few towns away that gets no traction. You offer a rock solid coaching program and have many loyal followers. You organize a day long retreat, and no one shows up. It happens.
Related: The 12 Covenants of Success
I heard Elizabeth Gilbert talk about a similar experience on the Lewis Howes’ School of Greatness podcast. Her book, Eat, Pray, Love, catapulted her from author to celebrity. Eat, Pray, Love was on the New York Times Bestseller list for a year; sold millions of copies; and secured Gilbert a spot on Oprah’s short list. And of course, her book was also made into a movie.
The sales of her next book, Committed, were .1 percent of her sales for Eat, Pray, Love . She never reached the same level of recognition with her encore. In the interview, Ms. Gilbert reflected that she always liked the book but recognized that you can’t stay in the same place forever. The experience made her realize the importance of figuring out your motivation before you start, because you will never be satisfied if you are driven by ego.
Which brings me to my next question: Why did I write the second article?
Why did you open the second store, or set up your day long retreat? Was it to build an empire for personal recognition or was it to bring a product or service for someone in need? Let me say, being compensated financially or emotionally is not a bad thing. You can’t run a business if you don’t make money or if you don’t feel appreciated by your customers.
In my case, I wrote the second article because I believed, then and now, that it was useful information, worthy of sharing. I didn’t write the article to prop myself up with trending status or thousands of social shares. But when I didn’t get the trending status, my first inclination was to question where I went wrong. I re-read the article for days on end and came to the same conclusion every time. My motivation was pure.
The trending status, that initially fed my ego, wasn’t about me. It was proving there was a need for my message. Once I realized that, I no longer questioned whether my second message was worthy but instead how I could have made it more appealing in order to reach a larger audience. In my case, I believe the title could have been adjusted to evoke more curiosity.
How about your second venture?
Looking back, do you still think it was a good idea? The answer might be no, it was a mistake. Not every decision is the right one. But if it was the right decision, ask yourself: What was my motivation? If it was pure, and you believe your message is still worthy of sharing, your next step is only to figure out how and where to fine-tune it.