Godin recently pointed to a page of color choices that would "change your life. A lot. For the better." I clicked through expecting something at least mildly earth-shattering, and found about a dozen nice color palettes.
Life: not changed.
I mention this only because it makes me just a little glad that Godin is not great at everything. Godin is great at what he does, but apparently picking colors is something he sees as fairly difficult. I
probably couldn't handle being VP of marketing for Yahoo, but give me a simple set of tools and a free three or four hours, and I'll gladly hand you 20 good-looking color palettes that will work for a lot of different applications and appeal to a wide range of people. That comes hard to a lot of people, and it comes easily to me.
The hugely-hyped Peter Drucker asks, in The Effective Executive, "What are the things that I seem to do with relative ease, while they come rather hard to other people?"
Go write that down. (I'll wait.) Put it where you can see it just about every day.
What are the things that you seem to do with relative ease, while they come rather hard to other people?
Some world-changing things
Godin sees the patterns of a new kind of marketing communication. He's called those patterns "Permission Marketing," "Purple Cows," "New Marketing," "Ideaviruses," and a host of other labels. He can translate those patterns to things he sees every day, providing positive and negative examples. His examples help other people see the patterns that most of us couldn't see before, or couldn't see clearly.
That's his thing. I would venture to guess that it has made him a pretty nice living. It has certainly made him hugely influential.
Pema Chodron's thing is taking esoteric and difficult Buddhist teachings and making them very clear and accessible to people living "normal" lives in the technologically-advanced West. Her mentor Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche was a greater Buddhist master, but Pema is a much more effective writer and teacher for ordinary Americans. She has eased the suffering and enlarged the compassion of countless people. Those people have gone on to ease the suffering and enlarge the compassion of others. She was an ordinary woman–a divorced schoolteacher with a plain face and bright eyes–who developed an extraordinary thing.
David Allen's thing was a way of looking at how to get more stuff done. He published two skinny books about it. (This one and the other one. You need both of them, trust me.) I have no idea if the guy has any other thing. He doesn't need one. GTD has revolutionized the lives of hundreds of thousands of people (including mine) and gotten one hell of a lot of stuff done in the seven years since his book was published.
Naomi Dunford's thing is taking big-agency marketing tactics and translating them in ways that work for Itty Businesses. She works too much because people go crazy for what she does and she can't multiply herself. Plus she should charge more money. And take better care of her health. But all that aside, she came forth doing her thing (and talking about it in a vivid, memorable way) and people went for it big time. There's power in the thing.
Understand the thing you have to offer
Some people have one thing that really works. A lot of people have a small collection of things that work uniquely well together. Even people with very grave mental disabilities usually have a thing, and for almost everyone, that thing has the seed of something remarkable.
So what's your thing? What comes easily and joyfully to you, and hard to others? Consider the great gift you can make by offering that to those who have a hard time with it.
And what, precisely, are you doing to nurture that remarkable seed?