How to Find Your True Competitive Advantage as a Creator

This article is an excerpt from The Thing About Creators by Jessica Carson. Read other excerpts at the end of this article. 

The Competitive Advantage — Withholding v. Giving

There never seems to be quite enough success to go around.

It’s as if we believe in the “Conservation of Success.” That there’s a fixed amount of success and it cannot be created or destroyed. Only transferred. Or usurped.

We march along with a “zero-sum” strategy. If we want to win, someone else must lose. There are only so many good jobs, funding dollars, or social media likes. If someone else snags the goods, there are less for you.

That’s just math.

We have been told to compete or die. Not fond of the latter option, we constantly strive to outdo, outsell, and outperform our comrades. Because the only way to succeed is certainly to compete.

And this mentality is no doubt exacerbated by our pornographic culture of achievement. How can your competitive drive not rev into hyper-speed when everyone is boasting their 30 Under 30, TED speaker, Best-of-Something status?

So to protect what is or can be ours, we climb into our Trojan horses. We isolate to ensure our security. We lock down our treasure. We don’t let anyone see how the sausage is made.

Our identities become oriented around our competitive advantage. What do we have that others don’t? What can we claim that others can’t?

And so competition rages on between and within groups: The “kids” in the office competing to replace the old. Women competing to outshine other women. Indeed, it seems to be both a dog-eat-dog and dog-eat-cat world.

Even as we mentor or manage employees, there is an unmistakable twinge of fear. A holding back as we consider they will take and exceed our own abilities, coming back later to behead the fool who gave it all away.

And Creators face added pressure to protect the recipe for their secret sauce.

Creators are competitive by nature. Which is not only healthy and helpful, but a damn near requirement. Any Creator who whimpers in the face of competition has a long, long road ahead.

But this territorial protectiveness takes on a magnified ferocity when it’s your unique talent, novel idea, or honed skill that’s vulnerably waiting to be snatched.

For influencers on the bleeding edge, verge of a breakthrough, or awaiting the birth of a brainchild, it can seem far too risky to let others into the chocolate factory.

The result is unproductive cycles of competition. A hoarding of personal power. A withholding of support. A guarding of sacred knowledge.

In an effort to win the game, we lock down our secrets to success. Rather than share our experiences, we keep them in “view mode” only. Rather than give away our gifts, we stockpile them.

But there is an irony, a fatal flaw, in this competitive strategy.

We don’t actually know what we’re best at until we give it away. Sparing any whimsical metaphors, the act of giving builds the identity. It teaches us what skills, lessons, and strengths resonate most with others.

The Creator finds themselves in a funk when a competitive relationship with the world has shortchanged their ability to know themselves.

In withholding our knowledge for fear of feeding the competition, we do ourselves the greatest disservice. The crisis comes when we starve ourselves the opportunity to learn what we’re best at. To learn how we can make meaning of our lives.

The grand cycles of life are instinctual to us: Learn and then teach, be cared for and then care for others, receive and then give. And by shuttering these cycles, we imbalance our emotional, social, and professional health.

As we sit on piles of our own accolades, we forgo the ability to complete the cycle. As we misuse and retain our talents, we lose sight of how to return what we’ve taken.

After all this withholding, a funk is all but inevitable. But this cycle can be reversed by giving away your goods.

So don’t fear, Creator. Share your secret sauce like ketchup packets at the drive-thru. Open source your competitive advantage — give “view and edit” access to all.


Giving Away the Goods — Recall, Reframe, Regift

There are four big things I’ve learned about competition & Creator identity:

Creatorss are competitive by nature
This competition is enhanced by the value of the knowledge and skills they possess
-By withholding knowledge, the Creator doesn’t learn how they can best serve
-Through giving, the Creator creates the identity by learning what others value in them

Here is my three step recipe to overcome your competitive advantage crisis:

1. List Your Competitive Advantage – Recall
2. Get Real with Your Competitive Advantage – Reframe
3. Give Away Your Competitive Advantage – Regift


1. List Your Competitive Advantage – Recall

You’ve made it this far, Creator. Chances are you know your competitive advantage.

You know what thrusts you into the spotlight. What gives you leverage. What makes you stand out. And if you’re not sure what your competitive advantage is, I have an easy trick for you.

Think about the most common ask you receive: the LinkedIn messages, mentorship requests, intros between friends or colleagues, or emails from a stranger who would be “very grateful for your guidance and insights.”

The first step is to list your competitive advantages. What are you best at? What are you commonly asked to do as a favor? What do friends frequently come to you for?

-Career: How to start a company? Build a brand? Get a promotion?
-Relationship: How to start a relationship? Leave a relationship?
-Skills: How to be a better marketer? Artist? Salesperson?
-Financial: How to budget? Ask for a raise? Buy a house?
-Lifestyle: How to travel the world? Decorate a home? Start a family?
-Activities: How to do yoga? Play lacrosse? Start running?
-Interest: How to learn about psychology? Politics? Chinese culture?
-Wellness: How to start meditating? Practice minimalism? Go gluten free?

Example
I am always asked for advice related to careers, psychology/mental health, entrepreneurship, relationships, writing, yoga, wellness, and meditation.

2. Get Real with Your Competitive Advantage – Reframe

Okay, so let’s be real. Ain’t no one stealing your competitive advantage.

Because that’s the thing about your competitive advantage. It’s your gift. Only you can offer it in the exact style and combination you know how.

And if you think your competitive advantage is so vulnerable as to be snatched through a blog post, it’s time to find a new one. Because it was never your competitive advantage to begin with.

The second step is to get real with your competitive advantage. Why don’t you give your secret sauce away? What are you scared of? What excuses do you make?

List all your most convincing excuses. And then get real. Call your own sh** and reframe them.

Example
-I worry other people will be better at my work than me –> There is enough success to go around
-I worry people will copy me –> I am flattered by people who model my work
-I don’t have time to mentor –> I have more time than I realize
-I don’t know enough to help others –> My insights are unique and valuable

3. Give Away Your Competitive Advantage – Regift

This is where the magic happens. This is the stuff identities are made of.

Giving away your competitive advantage is the cornerstone of a solid identity.

As a Creator, you know how to market and sell your abilities. You know how to create a pop-up shop for your gifts.

The third step is to give away your competitive advantage. How can best offer your competitive advantage to others? How can you share, teach, or mentor your gifts? How can you integrate those gifts into your work?

Giving away your competitive advantage isn’t just pro-bono work. You can share your secret sauce while being a savvy business person too. Create workshops, give talks, write articles, and do more to share your goods.

Example
I will share openly through my writing. I will teach more yoga, meditation, and psychology-related subjects. I will make time for earnest mentorship requests
List Your Competitive Advantage: Recall Get Real with Your Competitive Advantage: Reframe Give Away Your Competitive Advantage: Regift
I am always asked for advice related to careers, psychology/mental health, entrepreneurship, relationships, writing, yoga, wellness, and meditation
I worry other people will be better at my work than me –> There is enough success to go aroundI worry people will copy me –> I am flattered by people who model my work
I don’t have time to mentor –> I have more time than I realize
I don’t know enough to help others –> My insights are unique and valuable
I will share openly through my writing. I will teach more yoga, meditation, and psychology-related subjects. I will make time for earnest mentorship requests

The Thing About Creators

Don’t be fooled: Breakdowns aren’t reserved for your burnout roommate. In fact, the most spectacular freak-outs, funks, and crises are saved for disruptors, innovators, influencers, trend-setters, and go-getters. It’s basically a right of passage. Welcome to the club.
The Thing About Creators explores the crisis of meaning plaguing modern day success stories. The Creator is a powerhouse of psychological and energetic strength — but these rarified abilities make them uniquely vulnerable to funks. Add to this our current work and play climate, and we have an epidemic in the making. But Creators can capitalize on their crisis unlike any other. They can disrupt themselves.

Check out other excerpts from The Thing About Creators:

–  The Thing About Creators– An Overview
I.  How to Manage Your #FOMO as a Creator
II. How to Find Your True Competitive Advantage as a Creator

III. Why Your Elevator Pitch is Hurting Your Self Concept
IV. How to Handle Your Restlessness as a Creator
V. Why You Should Think Twice About Being an Impression Manager
VI. How Your “Personal Brand” is Keeping You Stuck

VII. How to Maximize Your Resonance With Others as a Creator
VIII. Why You Need to Stay in Your Body as a Creator

I hope this taste of The Thing About Creators serves you. Share your thoughts with me — I can’t wait to hear from you, Creator.

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