I took a golf class my Senior year of college; I needed a few extra classes, and I’d always thought about trying my hand at the sport. Plenty of people play it, it’s a “business sport,” and I guess it didn’t look that hard.
Spoiler alert: golf is hard.
Instinctively, I thought golf was just about hitting the ball. Turns out hitting the ball is just a part of the equation: form is so, so much of the game. Planting the feet, standing with the correct posture, keeping your eye on the ball as you swing…each of these points affects the distance the ball travels, the arc of its path, the amount it rolls or bounces when it hits the ground. But the part I could never seem to get a real hold of is follow through. And though my golf days are over, I still often find that I need to work on my follow through.
Back at C2E2 2013 I met Malik Forte; he’s a gaming editor for The Nerdist now, but at the time he was writing for Max Level. I was sitting in the press room working on a write-up, and he came in with one of his co-workers. I’d overheard that they were preparing for a press-only panel with Ed Boon, the co-creator of the Mortal Kombat franchise to talk about his new game, Injustice: Gods Among Us. I had my press pass, but I wasn’t on the list to go to the panel, so I struck up a conversation with Malik and asked if he thought he might be able to get me in. Though he didn’t directly vouch for me, I walked close enough to him and his co-worker that I think the doorman thought we were all with the same outlet. Sure enough, I got in.
After the panel, I thanked Malik for getting me in, and he told me that I could get access to events like that too if I just kept up the hard work. “You’ve just gotta make sure you follow up, ” he said. “It’s not that hard, you know? Just do the interview, write up the story, and make sure you follow up. Always follow up.” Doing the work is important, but it doesn’t mean much if nobody knows you did it; following up is key to success. Just like the follow-through in a golf swing creates better distance, emailing a follow-up after an article creates the connections that foster professional growth. I can’t help but imagine those follow-ups were a big part of what got him out of Chicago and in to Los Angeles.
Following-up is important for two reasons: 1) it increases your visibility, and 2) it lets people know you’re more than just talk. There are a million clichés about how much talk is worth: nothing. The dedication, hard work, and perseverance that create successful people come after the talking is done: all those actions (including creating the work itself) are the follow through. If you can’t handle the follow through you end up bailing on your promises. And there’s no quicker way out of an opportunity in the business world than to break promises.
I used to call myself a “pressure-cooker kid” because I think at my fastest when I’m facing a deadline. The pressure makes me focus just long enough to accomplish the task, but I tend to go back to my normal, procrastinating self afterward until the next deadline looms. Channeling that pressure-cooker kid is helping me create work frequently, which is good, but now I need to do more.
Remember that star chart I showed you a few weeks ago? You’ll be happy to know that by the time this article posts I’ll have 20 stars on it, 20 days of posting something new every day, either here or at my gaming blog, Intelligame. It’s something to personally celebrate; I don’t think I’ve ever written this consistently in my life. That said, if I want more people to come to the site, then just writing the posts isn’t enough. There’s social media to post to, comments to reply to (hopefully!), blog communities to participate in…there’s much following-through to do after the work is done. And I’m finding that’s the hardest part for me to do because I’m tired and feel like I deserve to rest or relax after a post. But finishing the post isn’t finishing the job.
It’s not enough to just create content or a product anymore and expect that people will come to you, and I don’t know that it ever has been. There’s plenty of great, undiscovered content in the world, and unless you want your product to be a part of that group, you have to do more than just create something: you have to go out and find people, give them a reason to care about your product, show them a quality product and then give them an even stronger reason to come back next time. The days of “if you build it, they will come” are over; you have to build it, and then you have to convince them to come. That’s the follow through.