Value Compounds. Mediocrity Doesn’t.

Over the last 2 months, I’ve released two Udemy courses: one on how marketers can use SQL, and the other on maximizing your productivity on your Mac.

The first course on SQL I spent 40+ hours creating. It’s a topic I know well, and a skill set I had to teach myself over weeks of struggle. I’m confident that the course I created is the best and fastest way to learn SQL if you want to use it for data analysis (as many marketers do).

On the other hand, I spent 5 hours pulling together my Macbook for Productivity course. Learning how to 10x your productivity on the computer is super valuable, but not very hard to learn and there are plenty of resources online people can learn from on their own. Lots of people search for productivity courses on Udemy and the course more than delivers on it’s promise to 10x people’s computer productivity.

Which course do you think did better?

The SQL course. And it’s not even close. Analytics with SQL has so far earned more than 9x the productivity course.

This reinforced something I’ve been noticing over the past few months – value compounds. Mediocrity doesn’t.

So how has this played out? I know I created the best resource out there for non-technical marketers who want to learn SQL for data analytics. And, because it’s the best, it’s been extremely well-received by the Growthhackers community, Reddit, and several bloggers who’ve linked to it in old blog posts about marketers and SQL. I’ve also been asked to sell it through two other growth-focused educational sites, and gotten several intros to potential consulting clients and others who wanted my feedback.

The Macbook productivity course? It’s been worthwhile, in that the money I’ve made has been worth the time I put in. It also continues to sell well, and I’ve gotten great feedback. However, there’s been no value compounding – I haven’t gotten any extra opportunities outside of simply selling the course on Udemy.

I see this a lot actually. People who create a lot, but never create something that crosses the threshold where stuff compounds in value. It’s like trying to invest when you don’t have enough money – it just doesn’t work because it’s too incremental.

You see this all over the internet. For example, thousands of people write books or other content about diet and fitness, many who repackage existing content and rely on strong marketing to get it out there. On the other hand, there’s Tim Ferriss, who’s fantastic 4 Hour Body is a mega-bestseller and has gotten him TV appearances, investment opportunities, and tons of other opportunities.

This dynamic exists in careers as well. I recently met a young kid who’s doing a bunch of affiliate marketing launches, making 3-5k a month shilling online info products. He’s doing better than almost anyone his age, but is generally repackaging content and just doing a great job of selling it.

Then you have someone like Ryan Holiday. He’s invested in doing difficult work and building his network and skillset for years now. Today, he has an incredible career – multiple bestsellers, well-connected, and regularly does consulting projects worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. His skills and experiences have compounded, because he focused on becoming one of the best in the world at his chosen domain (book marketing).

I’m not saying this to discount the work anyone puts into any kind of content, but this is something I’m thinking about as I work on other projects. In practice, it means no more spending time on things I can’t be the best at. Instead, I’ll be focusing only on doing things that create value, and ignoring everything else.

3 responses

  1. Thanks for sharing you experience on this. It’s a concept I agree on as well, which is I feel is a blessing and a curse. A blessing because it reinforces the concept of doubling down on what you are good at if only because the rewards will be much higher, and a curse for a person like me because I feel I belong in the camp of “Jack of all trades and Master of none”.

    Earlier in the year I released a Udemy course on creative idea generation after spending 5 weeks of work on it. It’s a topic I feel passionate about but truth be told I made most of my learnings while researching and preparing the course. Based on ROI, I don’t think the course has performed well, but I have learned a ton. I aim to apply these lessons into creating a course on a topic that I feel I would be better suited to. Lets see how it goes!

  2. There seems to be two variables here that matter: quality of the information *and* importance of the problem you’re solving. The SQL course is surely the best one out there, but its also solving a burning need for an audience that will pay (as did 4 Hour Body). The Macbook productivity problem is probably more useful to the world (just as 4 Hour Chef was brilliant tome on learning and cooking) but its not a critical problem. I’m not going to get a promotion because I learned a macbook shortcut, but SQL can change my life.

  3. Could not agree more. Thats where having a big picture view enters to play, not just short term gain which most of the time is empty and its value quickly deflates.

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