Why You Can’t Hack Your Way To Authority

Someone asked me recently if I’d write an article about authority “hacks”, as in shortcuts.

I thought about it—there certainly are plenty of things you can do to save time in building market authority. But the title felt off, like I’d be encouraging readers they can become authorities by doing as little as possible. You can’t hack your way to authority. In fact, the opposite is true—the more generous you are, the faster your authority will rise. (If you doubt this, listen to any of the folks Jonathan Stark and I have interviewed on The Business Of Authority podcast here. There isn’t one who didn’t mention it, even though we didn’t prompt them.) Building authority requires deep immersion in your specialty, which means you use shortcuts in the work itself at your peril (saving time in terms of technology, efficiency and distribution are of course the good kind of shortcuts). So that YouTuber who decides that ranting on his topic is the same as thoughtfully presenting an alternative point of view isn’t building authority, even if he gets 35,000 views. Any influence he might gain will be transitory at best. But what if instead, he decides to do a series of videos explaining his point of view and its benefit to his ideal audience? Now, he is not only generous, but he’s set up a building block to authority. He has changed the focus from himself (purging his annoyance) to his audience (how can I help them?) When every move you make comes from that place of wanting the lives of those you serve to be better, you’ve got the right mindset—and I’d argue you’re actually incapable of being a hack. The question of building your authority then becomes about the right strategies and tactics to reach your ideal audience, how you want to transform them (your big idea) and the platform you’re building. There is no hack in your authority. Related: Specializing Alone Won’t Make You An Authority