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If you want to provide value in ways that scale, you ought to think about scalability when choosing the format for providing your value. Some modes of providing value scale much better than others.
The Mindset of Scaling
Basically you want to consider these three questions:
- What is the value I’m providing and to whom?
- What would it look like for 100 people to receive similar value simultaneously?
- How can I continue to provide value while I’m sleeping?
Let’s begin with the first question. Suppose you’re currently working as a hairstylist. You provide value by cutting and styling people’s hair. And suppose you currently serve one client at a time, so your income is determined by the number of clients you serve and how much you charge your average client. Maybe you sell some products on the side as well.
You can increase your income by becoming more skilled or by improving the way you market your services, so you can charge more per client. But your income is still largely determined by how many clients you can get into your chair. Scaling beyond a certain point becomes difficult.
Now let’s try the second question. You couldn’t personally perform hairstyling services for 100 people simultaneously, so you’ll need help to provide this much value at once. You could recruit 100 stylists, perhaps by opening a very large salon. Then you could invest your time in marketing and advertising, both for clients and stylists, and it’s easier to scale these activities than it is to scale styling hair. This might take some investment of course, but if you received a share of each stylist’s revenue, you could scale your income by hiring and training more stylists. Eventually you might need to branch out to other regions and open more salons too.
There are other pathways of course, but the key is that someone or something else needs to be doing the haircuts. You have to break free of the limitation of performing each haircut yourself. Instead of doing the haircuts, you need to be responsible for making the haircuts happen, which is a more flexible and expansive way of thinking about providing value. If the value has been received because of what you’ve set into motion, you’re still providing it.
What about the third question? If you want to provide haircuts even while you’re sleeping, you could open a 24/7 salon and have stylists working there at all hours. Or you could offer franchises for your salons. Or you could create courses or training programs for stylists or for other salon owners. If you make your training available online, then people could take your courses anywhere in the world, and people could be learning and using your methods to cut hair even while you’re sleeping.
Putting content into digital form is a major scalability breakthrough that allows you to create something once and then leverage it to provide value to people again and again at near zero cost.
The advantage of putting value into digital formats like text, audio, video, images, or software is that you’ve eliminated some major barriers to scalability. In particular, you’ve decoupled the delivery of your value from your personal time.
Going back to the hairstylist example, if you create a blog, video, ebook, or online course to help other stylists, then there’s no effective limit on how many other stylists can receive your value, even while you’re sleeping.
The main difference here is in mindset. By asking different questions, you end up with different solutions. The main focus is on how to provide value to more people. Today that focus is likely to lead you to the Internet eventually. The Internet is humanity’s great scaling mechanism for providing value globally.
How to Scale
A good first step in devising scalable approaches is to stop doing things that don’t scale well. At least stop doing them in the ways that don’t scale.
For the hairstylist that means to stop cutting so much hair because cutting hair yourself doesn’t scale well. Put more time and energy into figuring out how to make good haircuts happen. For instance, book slightly fewer appointments, and spend the extra time working on the scalability challenge.
Sometimes a good scalable source of value is a small pivot away from the non-scalable work you’re already doing. For instance, suppose our stylist is a great conversationalist, and suppose she noticed that she gets better tips than her coworkers, perhaps 20% better on average. And suppose she notices the pattern that hairstylists who can carry interesting conversations while cutting hair are typically getting larger tips from their clients.
She could create a course to teach other stylists to become better conversationalists. She could put that course into a digital form, such as audios or videos, and offer it online. And the tangible benefit she can offer is to help stylists increase their tips by up to 20%. How much would 20% more tips be worth to a stylist over the course of a year? Even if it’s just a modest 5% increase, how much would that be worth? She can price and promote her course fairly based on the real benefit she’s providing. Her course could be worth hundreds of dollars to the right people, so she doesn’t need a ton of sales to make a nice income from selling the course. As she scales up the course sales, she can continuing working as a stylist if she enjoys it, or she can retire from working as a stylist altogether and focus on her course and other scalable offers.
In this case she’s not making more haircuts happen, but she’s taking a small subset of her work, one she might have easily overlooked, and she’s recognizing that it can be a serious source of value for other stylists (as well as for their clients). Furthermore, she might even have the potential to expand her work into other fields that also involve carrying on a conversation while serving customers.
I know many dozens of people who’ve done these types of pivots in a wide variety of fields. They can work very well in practice.
Notice that the type of work changes though. First you create a source of value that can scale, such as a course. Then you must also do the work of scaling it. Nobody will know about our stylist’s course unless she gets the word out, so her real work just shifted to marketing and sales, most likely online. This will allow her to leverage marketing tools to find clients and scale up the number of people taking her course, even while she’s sleeping.
When people get stuck in this process, they often miss this last step. Scaling does take some work, and it is an activity. Most income streams don’t auto-scale. You need to do the work of scaling them up. Otherwise it’s like launching a website that no one visits.
But notice the key difference between doing one-time work that doesn’t scale versus doing the actual work of scaling up. In the latter case, your rewards are compounded. For instance, you could set up a decent system to attract potential students, and once you have that up and running, you can keep building it up further.
As I shared during Lesson 25 of the recent Deep Abundance Integration course, a common difference between scarcity-minded people and abundance-minded people is that scarcity-minded people typically spend most of their time doing maintenance work. This means that they work to maintain their income, such as by trading hours for dollars. By contrast, abundance-minded people usually spend a good bit of time on advancement work. They invest their time and energy to advance and increase their income streams, not merely to maintain those streams.
How many hours in a typical working month do you spend doing advancement work? This means creating scalable income sources and then scaling them up? Do you have any scalable income sources yet?
Of course you won’t always succeed when you try to create a scalable income source and then scale it up. But each time you try an approach that doesn’t work, you’ll learn something, and you’ll eventually discover approaches that do work.
Can everyone scale up this way? What happens when everyone tries to do this? Well… let me know when everyone really is trying in earnest to do this since it would be a pretty huge shock to me. People really seem to struggle with the basic mindset here, acting as if scalable income is some alien concept. It seems clear that we’re moving into a phase of life on earth where more and better scaling is becoming possible and accessible thanks to the Internet and ever-evolving tech, including further developments in AI.
I have many friends who’ve scaled up to 7 and 8 figure income streams, and they don’t work any harder than those with non-scalable income. They just approach the problem of providing value differently, thinking about scalability up front before committing to a particular direction.
Making Scalable Offers
If you do any work at all, then you’re already making offers. So how scalable are your offers?
If you make offers with low scalability, such as trading your time for money via salary or hourly rate, then you’re placing a fairly low ceiling on your income. You may also be setting yourself up for a sensation of time scarcity if the only realistic way to scale your income is to work more hours (if you even have that option).
On the other hand, if you make offers with high scalability, then as soon as you pass the threshold of covering your expenses, everything beyond that is a bonus. Interestingly, you may need different forms of motivation to move beyond this point, such as developing a stronger sense of mission or purpose.
Think about some small subset of your work where you actually feel you do a good job but you also feel like your skills in this area aren’t being leveraged too well. Could you teach someone to get a little bit better in some area of life? What would that mean to someone over the course of a year or more?
There’s nothing weird or odd about scalable offers. You may be less experienced with them if you’re more familiar with offers that don’t scale, but don’t dismiss the potential for learning to leverage scalability. Even if you aren’t scaling your offers, there’s a good chance you’re playing a role in someone else’s scalable system. So if you aren’t scaling your value, someone else is probably using you to scale theirs.
Personally I find that my best framing for making scalable offers is caring. If you genuinely care about providing value to people and creating some positive ripples in the world, then why be so selfish with your value and limit it to just a few people? Why not do something to help a lot more people if you can?
I learned this powerful lesson as a game developer. I could use my talents to create a game, which was limiting, or I could share what I learned from my own experience to help other game developers, which was more expansive and scalable. This helped more developers complete their projects, so more games got released, and more players got to enjoy them. The ripples I could create from helping other developers were greater than the ripples I’d been creating from working on my own games. It was this mindset that helped me carry forward into creating scalable sources of value when I began doing personal development work years already.
You may have some internal objections to going this route, such as wondering if you can provide any value worth scaling. Join the club. Everyone has objections. The people who go this route just don’t let their objections stop them. They see the irrationality of those objections and use better reasoning. They understand that if they seek ways to provide scalable value, it may take time, but they’ll eventually figure it out.
This is where caring helps again. If you care then you’ll also listen and observe. You’ll find out if people are indeed receiving value from your scalable offers, and you’ll learn what effect your efforts are having. You won’t be able to measure all of the ripples, but you’ll be able to see some of them, and that’s very motivating when you start seeing positive ones.
One of the key benefits of scaling that people often overlook is how much thanks and appreciation they’ll receive (sometimes for the rest of their lives) for providing value to people in ways that scale. Consider how much appreciation J. K. Rowling must receive because she took the time to share her imaginative stories in the form of a scalable medium. When you tell a story, are you putting it into a scalable form that can provide value to others indefinitely, or will your stories die with you?