In college, I earned a decent side income by selling my class notes.
The way I took notes — the way I structured them, the extra mnemonics I added, the formatting that made it easy to see how all of the information “fit” together — made the material more digestible and memorable to other students.
People still purchase my notes I created in preparation for taking the Bar Exam, for the same reasons. It's not that I was presenting “new” information in the notes. It's that the way I presented the information was unique and it made the material more useful, memorable and focused.
So last week, I was at a conference with some great speakers.
And there I am with my yellow legal pad and Pilot G2 pen, writing notes and diagramming sales funnels and marking actionables at top speed.
Over and over again during the breaks, as people would walk past my seat, folks kept stopping and asking, “Are those your notes?… Love how you've got the action items marked… The diagrams are really thorough… I can't believe you got all that done during the speech…”
And then would come the follow-on… “Those are so easy to follow, so easy to see the action items, so clear (etc). Can I pay you for a copy of those?”
Keep in mind: these are people who had already paid to attend the conference, and who had already sat through (and taken their own notes on) the same presentations.
They weren't offering to buy new information from me.
They were offering to hand over money for a copy of my notes because the way I presented the info — the exact same info they had access to already — made the information easier for them to remember, act on, and use.
And that's the takeaway principle:
You provide value by making existing information easier to understand, remember, act on or use.
By the way, don't think this is only true in a strictly business setting.
Have you ever seen someone holding a map — or staring blankly at the Google Map display on their phone — obviously trying to figure out how to get somewhere and not able to do so, despite having the information in front of them?
The person who stops and tells them to “hang a right at the coffee shop, head about two blocks up Main Street, hang another right at the deli, and the restaurant will be the third place on the right side of the street” is going to save their day.
Not because he came up with “new” information for them, but because he presented existing information in a way that was more easily understandable, more readily useful, or more immediately actionable.
We can all lose a lot of time focusing on how much we don't know, or worrying that there's nothing new under the sun… when really, it doesn't matter.
Fact is, the value lies in presenting what you DO know in whatever way is the most useful, memorable, and easily actionable for the people around you.
(Your customers, team members, or co-workers, for instance.)
They don't care if your info is brand spankin' new. They care if they can actually use it.
They care if they can get a positive result from it.
They care if they can act on it to further their own business, to pass the Bar Exam, or to find the restaurant they're looking for.
Novelty is momentary. Usefulness is lasting.
Worry less about creating something “new under the sun,” and focus instead on how you can make things incredibly, compellingly, irresistibly useful, memorable, helpful, or actionable.
That's what people want. Provide it.
To your compellingly irresistible usefulness,