27 September 2023

Big thinking in a small world

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Bruce Kasanoff* says instead of trying to be the best in the world at anything (an impossible task) find a niche where you can truly make your mark.

I recently re-watched the John Cusack movie, Say Anything.

It reminded me how Cusack’s character, Lloyd, eventually decides the one thing he can do better than anyone on the planet is to be a loving partner to Diane, “an unattainable high-school beauty and straight-A student”.

In the film, people always want Lloyd to tell them that he aspires to be a doctor or lawyer or some other respectable career position.

However, this is not what Lloyd feels inside, and he is honest enough to admit it.

In the career space, experts often encourage us to identify the one thing we can do better than anyone else, and this advice has often baffled me.

“Anyone else” means eight billion people (according to latest estimates); can I really be better at anything than anyone else with that competition?

Then there are those who offer guidance such as “just be the best you”. That feels like a cop out, I have to admit.

The correct answer, I suspect, is to narrow your niche until it feels right. Here are some examples.

Be the kindest and most competent paediatrician in Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts (population 4,600).

Here I have combined two specific traits with one specific location.

Be the best trademark lawyer for the bicycle industry who also competes regularly in road races.

I combined three traits here, and the third one — riding — creates a career in which the person is deeply involved personally in the industry he or she serves.

Be the best painter of trout.

This one is based specifically on the real life of James Prosek, who has been fascinated by trout since he was a boy; it is very, very specific.

In business in general, I have seen that people often resist focusing on a narrow niche, but once they do, their career success increases.

To offer a personal example, I aspire to be the best social media ghost-writer who talks to entrepreneurs weekly about what matters most to them.

See? That’s five specific elements I am using to define my niche.

Now, it’s your turn. What’s your narrow niche?

*Bruce Kasanoff is the founder of The Journey, a newsletter for positive, uplifting and accomplished professionals. He can be contacted at kasanoff.com.

This article first appeared at kasanoff.com.

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