#015: Dr. Yusef Smith

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Dr. Yusef Smith is a doctor, personal trainer, and co-creator of Propane Fitness – a business that helps people increase muscle, lose fat, improve their mindset and become more productive. Yusef and his partner Jonny (who will be on the podcast at a later date) have been putting content out on the Internet since 2008. In this wide-ranging conversation, we spoke about the power of expressing your failures, the responsibility of content creators, why he became a coach, and much more.


How To Pick A Niche

I made an announcement on Twitter the other day:

I was going to focus my content on energy.

Someone asked a great question: “How did you come to that decision?”

There was quite a bit of thought that went into it, so I wanted to expand in a longer-form post. It may help you, it may not… but either way, it’ll help show you the mission I’ll be going on. This article will also give you ways to come up with your own niche.

For those who are unsure about their niche – or their basis of content – this could serve as a guide.

A few things happened over the past week in particular.

  1. I interviewed Nicolas Cole for my podcast. He pushed me: “What is your focus? What are you known for? Everyone has a top performer podcast. Go deeper.” That made me think.
  2. Two other guests of the podcast asked me: “Who’s listening to this podcast?” When I told them my Mom and Grandma, that was accurate… but I didn’t have a listener avatar. That bothered me.
  3. In Steph Smith’s book, Doing Content Right, she talked about how when you produce content online… you’re really entering into a contract with your audience. One example from her book: there was a creator who produced YouTube videos about haunted houses. The creator stopped posting about haunted houses. Then the creator started posting about something else. Then she went back to haunted houses. But nobody watched her videos when she went back to the haunted houses because she had broken her agreement with her audience. Even if you’re posting your content under your personal brand, people don’t come for you. They come to learn about a topic or something they’re interested in.
  4. I was listening to this podcast from Daniel Pink and Tim Ferriss. Pink was talking about pitching books. How when he pitches a new book, he puts a tagline on the book that explains why this book doesn’t exist in the marketplace. For example, when Tim Ferriss was pitching his second book, The Four Hour Body, he could have said “This is the The Four Hour Workweek… but for your body.”
  5. Looking into the backgrounds of people I admired, like Tim Ferriss and Ryan Holiday, they didn’t start writing about everything. They slowly but surely built up the trust of their audience by starting with one topic (Ferriss – business optimization; Holiday – books). Then, they slowly, but surely grew from there.

The Four Questions

So I started asking myself questions to help guide me…

  • What Are You Known For? Many strangers have commented on my energy. It’s by far the most common comment: “Your energy is infectious!” I appreciate the comment every time. It took me a long time to figure out I should actually study it.
  • What Could You Write A Book About? You don’t necessarily have all the information for this book today. But is this something that keeps you up at night? Would you be interested in researching this? Would you be interested in reading research papers (typically the most boring documents in the world) about this? If yes, that’s a good sign. Energy fits the bill for me.
  • What Could You Help A Company With? The way I like to think about this is: If you were to get on stage at a company or give a TED talk, what would you talk about? Previously, I was writing my content “for those in pursuit of their highest version,” but this is broad. It’s hard to grasp onto. There are so many facets to it. It’s harder to get that across to a company than “Hey, you should increase the energy of your employees and this is why. This is what the research shows about energy.”
  • James Clear = “Habits;” You = “Your Niche”? This was a useful equation for me because I asked myself, if James Clear was known for habits, what would I want people to know me for? What could I dive deep on research (as James Clear did)?

These four questions helped guide me.

Energy will be my focus from here on out.

And who knows if “energy” will be a topic that I write a book about or that people care if I’m writing about.

But doing this exercise and asking myself these questions… it has given me a path forward. When you’re choosing a niche, you’re choosing a lens through which to look at the world. 

And I’m excited to look at the world through the lens of energy.

Postscript: Do You Have To Choose A Niche?

I think it’s important to say no.

For example, Nat Eliason has been writing about a bunch of different things for the past six years on his website (SEO, sex, writing, personal knowledge management systems… you know the usual combination). Overall, I would put him in the niche of “learning,” similar to Julian Shapiro, who focuses on a bunch of different stuff… but this likely happened quite organically rather than a decision to be “the learning guy.”

More important than niche selection is your commitment to put out content. That’s why many people who have succeeded at writing on the Internet have focused on a goal they can control (i.e. write one post a week) rather than an external goal (i.e. have 1,000,000 people check out my writing). You can control the former, not the latter.