I've been thinking a lot about how we learn. And more and more I find value in experiential knowledge (things you learn by doing) over academic knowledge (things you learn by reading). For example…
- I learned how to skydive from someone who has skydived thousands of times.
- I've talked with parents about their experience raising their kids – rather than reading a book about raising kids.
- While preparing for a marathon I read a ton of blog posts about running and the advice I really appreciated was from people who actually ran marathons.
- I want to learn computer science from someone who has participated in computer science projects. Not someone who just repeats what their professor told them.
- I practice acro yoga and when I want to learn a new pose I do so with people who have done those poses before – not with people who just read about them.
- When I moved to Denver I decided to move and live in the city for a year and see how it went. Worst case scenario I would move back to Wisconsin. I looked up all of the stats before moving (crime rate, weather, cost of living, etc.) but ultimately I just couldn't understand that information until I actually experienced it.
You can consume a thousand articles, blog posts, books, videos, and conversations with people about a topic. But some topics are so big that you really can't understand it until you live it – like moving to Denver. I could pull up every metric about Denver (and I did make a spreadsheet), but I could never imagine what it's like living downtown in a big city versus living in Green Bay, Wisconsin (a much smaller city with very different values).
This isn't to say academic knowledge is useless. It's incredibly useful. Using academic knowledge I realized the Denver has way more sunny days than Portland & Seattle which is why Denver made it to the top of the list. Now, I can't fully imagine what it's like living in Denver surrounded by mountains but I was at least able to narrow down the list of cities based on some really useful data. And from there I had to experience Denver to know if it was the right choice for me.
An Expert With Experience
One of the people who I do follow is Ezra Firestone who runs Smart Marketer and talks about the strategies he uses to promote the brands he helps. He's in the trenches learning the ins & outs of Facebook ads and he shares that with his audience.
And one of the best things about everything he teaches is that you know these strategies work for him. Your audience or store may be somewhat different, but he’s proven that what he does is cost effective and works well in at least his situation.
And that's what gets me to pay $500+ for a live stream pass to one of his events. He explains the theory and how it actually played out in the real world. It's easy to say something – it's a lot harder to prove that something works. And Ezra does that. He's showing that for at least his brand it did work. And he also explains some of the strategies they tried that didn't work.
This is the type of expert that I want to be. I have the academic knowledge. I want to have the experience bringing a product to life.
Building a Product
I've talked about this on a few podcasts and I added it to my 2018 goals but I want to have a separate blog post just for this topic because it's important.
I don't want to tell people what products work and which ones don't – because while I can look at trends I haven't done any of this work.
I don't want to tell people how to find a manufacturer – because while I can scroll through Alibaba I haven't gone further than that. I can see a little ways down the path but I haven't traveled it myself.
And I don't want to tell people how to price their products. I've priced digital products but that's very different – and pricing physical products who am I to say $22 is too cheap and $27 is too expensive? Maybe those extra $5 in profit you'd earn wouldn't deter that many people and you'd make a lot more money per customer.
That's why I'm going to build a physical product this year.
The type of product isn't important so I'm going to focus on something that I know and love. I've been playing board games for years and I know the industry pretty well from the consumer side.
I've always wanted to design a game so I'm going to put years of experience playing games into designing rules, pieces, and graphics for my own game.
If you don't know much about the board game world there's actually a number of really interesting choices that I'll have to make.
- How do I stand out? (There were over 1,000 new board games released at just one convention last year.)
- How much can I charge? With thousands of similar products customers will automatically compare you to a similar size game.
- How many games do I need to sell to make a living? If I want to sell a small card game that goes for $8.25 on Amazon. How much of that can I keep? How many copies a day do I need to sell to make a living?
- How much space should my product take up? The bigger space you take on the shelf the more likely you are to get noticed but it eats into your margins and costs for shipping.
- Should I self publish my game? Or do I want to use a publisher who might have manufacturer & retailer connections?
There's a whole bunch of really interesting questions I'll have to answer. And honestly right now I have no idea how to answer them. I'm going to take my best guess, experiment, and see what happens.
And I'm really excited.
By the end of 2018 I want to have a product ready to go. I know the publishing and/or Kickstarter process can be long so by the end of 2018 I want to be ready to go under contract with a publisher or be ready to start planning my own Kickstarter campaign.
That gives me 10 months to build a product, validate that people want this product, price the product, create the art for the product, and build a brand around the product or company. That's a lot of things to do in a short amount of time.
In the end I hope I have more stories for you – stories from my own experience.