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Friday, July 24, 2015

The First Newly Listed Stamps Sell, Identifying Your Superpower and Overcoming Self-Doubt

I sold my first stamps from my new listings over the last two days. A total of six stamps - three pence issues and three of the cents issues from 1851-1865 have sold, some within minutes of being listed. Most of them belong to my consignor, and they were stamps that ordinarily are difficult to sell, as their condition was very poor. But they are rare stamps and there is always a collector out there that simply cannot afford to pay for a fine example. This was a very encouraging development, particularly this early in the process.

I wanted to go back now and address the topic that is most critical to the entire process of reclaiming your life, as it is the cornerstone from which everything is built: identifying your superpower.Your superpower is generally something that you are so passionate about, that you can do it better than anybody you know, or you approach it in a way that is simply unique. For example, it could be:

1. That you know the hockey scores for all the major NHL teams for the last 60 years, and you know just about everything there is to know about the players on these teams.

2. That you have a talent for gardening such that you can make anything grow, no matter what the conditions. You have an ability to know exactly how to combine fertilizers and diffferent kinds of soil and space plants in a way that yields results that elude most people.

3. That you are a super nerd who knows everything there is to know about Marvel comics,the Simpsons, Star Trek, Star Wars and other such subjects, including all of the associated collectibles and memorabilia that has been produced and sold over the years. You can go to a garage sale and find that X-wing fighter model that you can sell to a diehard fan for $50, when you paid $1. Or it could be something like model boats, records, coins, hockey cards, depression glass, advertising memorabilia, antiques or any other collectible.

4. You have a passion for fitness and have developed simple workout routines that keep you in shape and that you think others could follow and learn with relative ease.

5. You are a movie buff and have seen thousands of movies. You enjoy critiquing them and comparing one movie to another. When your friends want to see a good movie, they come and ask for your opinion, and you never seem to steer any of them wrong in terms of seeeing something they enjoy.

6. You have a passion for cooking and have been able to develop innovative ways to make nutritious and delicious meals from basic ingredients that are available in any food store.

You may look at the above list and see mostly hobbies. Indeed you have probably not grown up thinking of your ability as a superpower. Well meaning family members, who could not see how your ability could sustain a lifestyle may not have encouraged you to develop it beyond a hobby in your spare time.

One of the main reasons for this in all likelihood, is that 10 years ago the world was a very different place, and the opportunities for people to monetize their superpower simply did not exist, or were not accessable in the way they are today. The internet, and Google, along with social media, have now made it possible for a person to monetize their superpower in one of two basic ways:

1. If your superpower is knowledge of and appreciation for a product, market sites like E-bay, Etsy, Delcame, and Bidstart make it possible for you to source that product cheaply by purchasing at auction and then to re-sell at retail. It is a time tested, basic and very sound way to make a profit. It works because you have in depth knowledge that enables you to know exactly how much you can pay for the product and what you can sell it for. That knowledge doesn't come overnight - it takes years to acquire. But the good news is that you have been acquiring it all along if that product is your passion.

2. If your superpower is that you possess knowledge that can save people time, help them avoid disappointment or otherwise improve their lives in some way, blogs allow you to disseminate that knowledge. If you obtain enough readers, companies will begin advertising on your blog - Google Adsense will sell them the space, and you will get a share of the revenue. We live in an age of information overload - there is simply so much out there that a person who can take a topic and distil all the relevant and most sought after information and locate it in one, easily accessible place, will eventually develop massive readership. The only catch is you have to be disciplined about putting up regular posts and you have to tailor your content to what you think your readers are going to be interested in.

Prior to the internet, and even 10 years ago, if you wanted to buy and sell a product your problem was how to source that product, and then how to find customers. It required a huge upfront investment in print-advertising. If you wanted to disseminate knowledge, you had to write books, which were very expensive to print and publish, so the rejection rates were high.

To illustrate, lets take the above list of superpowers above and see how they could be developed or otherwise turned into careers:

1. The sports buff could write a blog that is highly navigable, where a die hard sports fan could be treated to a different story or tidbit each week about their favouite teams or players. The blogger could also publish a guide of major sporting broadcasts or events happening that week or month, so that the sports fan could plan to attend or watch a game. As readership grows, beer companies and sporting goods companies would begin advertising on it. It could very well be a full time endeavour if the writer set about making it the go to site for the sports fan.

2. There are lots of books explaining plants and how to plant them. Still there are others that give some ideas for gardens. However, there are not very many sources that explain to someone who wants to start from scratch, what the basics are, or how to take their existing yard space and make the most of it, or what the garden is going to cost in terms of time and resources to maintain. A passionate gardener could produce a written blog and Youtube videos to disseminate knowledge about gardening techniques. Again, as readership and viewership grows, makers of gardening products would advertise on the blog.

3. Market sites make sourcing collectibles easy. The only hard part is going through all the listings to sort the wheat from the chaff, and having the discipline to not bid too much. Fortunately there are bid-sniping programs out there that you can subscribe to that will take your bids and then execute them at the last seconds of the auction. The main advantage of this is it takes the emotion out of it. If you ask me what stamps I am currently bidding on, I couldn't tell you. I look at hundreds of listings a day and at any given time I am bidding on 500+ items. I don't care if I buy them or not, because I know that tomorrow there will be another 500 just like them. What I care about is that I don't pay more than I should for them. So going back to the example I gave of the X-wing fighter model, the sites make it possible to profit on a garage-sale type find hundreds of times over, which was not possible before these sites came along.

4. Fitness and cooking  knowledge could be disseminated online in the same way as #1 and #2 above, but there would be more emphasis on Youtube to illustrate technique. Again, there are lots of sources that will tell you how to do a particular exercise, or cook a certain dish. But there are not a lot that will tell you how to design a workout routine that is optimal for your body type, weight, age and overall health, as well as giving practical advice on nutritiuon, or how to design an entire month of menus that are well balanced and can be made in reasonable time within a particular food budget.

5. The movie buff could design a website that allows a person, couple or group of friends to reliably pick a good movie to see depending on what their individual tastes were, who their favourite actors/actresses are, favourite genre etc. The quality of the site would depend on developing algorithims that allow the selection of a movie that would not be disappointing to the viewer. In short, it saves people time and money.

So I would encourage you to start thinking about what makes you passionate, and do it without that voice in your head that says "yeah but I can't make a living at this", for even if there is no immediate opportunity now, that does not mean that there won't be changes in society that create the opportunity later.

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