Everyone today wants to want to be seen as forward-thinking.
They want to be celebrated as the guru, the expert, The All Knowing One of their industry. Unfortunately, the vast majority of people who want to be a “thought leader” or best-selling author in today’s digital, gamified world are not actually contributing new, differentiated ideas.
Only a small minority — the Category Kings—actually spark demand by creating what is suddenly urgent, important, and most useful in the world.
They understand how to climb The Content Pyramid to create legendary Non-Obvious outcomes. They develop new and different business models to create net-new opportunities for themselves and the customers they want to serve.
And there are strategies for doing so.
The Content Pyramid: The 5 Levels Of Becoming A Legendary Writer, Creator, And Thought Leader
In The Content Pyramid, we share how most people who aspire to be a “thought leader” struggle to make it past Levels 2 or 3 on The Content Pyramid.
If you want to be a legendary writer, creator, entrepreneur, executive, or thought leader, you need to make a decision on which game to play.
Do you want to make a difference? Or, do you want to be accepted?
If you want to make a difference, then you need to divorce yourself from public approval. “Different” things don’t get accepted right away.
Think: Nassim Nicholas Taleb, who creates top-of-the-pyramid, differentiated, non-obvious content in smaller topic categories (macroeconomics, mathematics, and statistics).
If you want to be accepted, then Tweet, post, and make videos catering to the lowest common denominator. Don’t threaten, don’t challenge, and optimize for confirmation bias.
Think: Gary Vee, who creates bottom-of-the-pyramid, undifferentiated, obvious content in larger topic categories (happiness, success, business motivation, content creation).
Consciously choosing which game you want to play is crucial to measuring your success as a writer, creator, entrepreneur, and thought leader. Once you choose, you’re ready to start climbing The Content Pyramid.
If you decide to make a difference, you’ll need to master the Art of Fresh Thinking.
The Art Of Fresh Thinking: How To Create Obvious & Non-Obvious Content
That’s because almost all thinking is reflexive (having an unconscious “reflex” in response) versus “reflective” (taking a moment to consciously reflect on how the past may have created a preexisting mental model keeping you from considering a new and different future).
In order to build the skill of coming up with fresh, new ideas, we have to first define what it means to “think.”
This is crucial because reflexive readers want Obvious content, and reflective readers want Non-Obvious content.
Obvious Content = The art of speaking to what people already think and believe (catering to the reader’s reflexive nature).
Non-Obvious Content = The art of educating people on what they haven’t thought about or decided they believe yet (requesting their reflective nature).
The most valuable part of the creation spectrum is when you can solve Non-Obvious problems in Obvious ways.
Here’s an example from the legendary coffee company, Keurig:
[Non-Obvious Problem]: Office coffee sucks even though it is free — because not everyone likes the same kind of coffee.
[Obvious Solution]: Here’s a single-serve cup of coffee in a tiny K-Cup so you can choose the specific roast, blend, origin, and flavor just the way you like it.
[Non-Obvious Outcome]: Employees are happier with the coffee and employers are psyched that their workforce is more productive because they are well caffeinated and do not have to leave to go to Starbucks.
And this is why JAB acquired Keurig for $14 billion dollars in 2015.
The real challenge is coming up with Non-Obvious connections that stand the test of time. See the exact steps and examples in The Art of Fresh Thinking.
Business Models: How Writers, Creators, And Thought Leaders Monetize
The apex of The Content Pyramid is to become a Category Creator.
But the big question every writer, creator, and thought leader (at some point) asks themselves is, “OK I’m building an audience, I’m making a difference with my work, I’m becoming known for a niche I own — but how do I make money?”
How you make your money at each level of the Content Pyramid changes — with new and different (and freedom-filled) business models being unlocked.
Level 1: Monetizing As A Consumer
Making money as a consumer (Level 1) doesn’t exist. (If you think you’re going to make money from home scrolling watching TikToks, sorry.) You can only monetize as a consumer when you move from Consumer to Creator.
Level 2: How To Monetize As A Curator
The primary value a Curator provides is saving time. The Curator’s job is to aggregate content on a given subject so that you don’t have to. The easiest place to start as a Curator is by curating what you are a Superconsumer of — and sharing that.
Level 3: How To Monetize As An Obvious Creator
Obvious creators make money helping readers/customers make Obvious connections that unlock Obvious and already desirable outcomes. When trying to find the right monetization vehicles for your Obvious content, these are the two questions you should ask yourself:
#1: What type of content do you enjoy creating the most?
#2: Where are your Superconsumers?
Knowing who you are creating for and what their expectations are (and why) is half the battle to becoming a legendary writer, creator, and/or entrepreneur.
Level 4: How To Monetize As A Non-Obvious Creator
Both Obvious and Non-Obvious creators can use Direct-To-Creator business models and get paid directly by their readers. You’ll want to monetize in all of these different ways — so your income is diversified, and how you “pay for the party” isn’t as “fragile.”
You’ll want to write books
And launch courses
And get hired to speak
And create digital products
And maybe launch a paid newsletter
And hold bootcamps, workshops, and masterminds
As a Non-Obvious creator, you’ll always make the most money when you find ways to monetize the experience, outcome, or transformation and not just “the information.”
Level 5: How To Monetize As A Category Creator
The real test as to whether you have transcended and become a true Category Creator really comes down to one single question.