How Thought Leaders earn money from what they know

How Thought Leaders earn money from what they know

One way to earn money from what you know is to package up what you know into cheap easy to buy parcels.

You could create a manufactured solution, so it is always ready to pluck off the shelf when someone places an order. But to do this you’d have to strip out the freshness to ensure it never goes out of date.

Then you could make it easy to use. In fact, so easy that anyone could do it in only a minute.

But clearly, this would mean it would limit long-term value. Which might leave a bad taste in the mouth of your clients if you don’t get it right.

The way Thought Leaders operate

Thankfully, there is another way – the way thought leaders operate.

Instead of instant soup, we want to talk about the instant power of good ideas.

In this post, we’re discussing how thought leaders create and deliver value.

The Content Creation Canvas Series

Content Creation Canvas - Part 3 - Context Shift

It’s part three in our series on the Content Creation Canvas.

In the first part, Content Strategy 2022 – The best framework for Thought Leaders, we discussed business goals.

And in the second part, we discussed how to create your Killer Client Value Statement in Three Steps.

And today we’re talking about the number one skill that thought leaders need to build…

What Thought Leaders Do

Thought leaders lead with their ideas through leading conversations.

To have a conversation you need something to talk about, which is why your content creation is so important.

The foundation of your content creation is your IP creation. This is the framework, the skeleton, the building block for all your content marketing.

It’s also the foundation for your sales process.

What Gary Vaynerchuk said

Context is God - Gary Vaynerchuk

Media expert, Gary Vaynerchuk once said: If Content is King, Context is God.

And this is true for thought leaders. If you want to be king or queen, then create great content. But if you want to be God…

This is why context shifting is the number one skill of thought leaders.

It’s the key to your IP creation, the key to your content marketing and the key to selling your services. Ultimately, it’s how you earn money from what you know.

Problem and Solution

Clients will pay you money when they perceive that you can make their current situation better.

In other words, when they can see that you can add value and provide a return on their investment on the money they pay you.

To sell yourself, traditional wisdom suggests you think of problems and solutions.

  • What problems are your clients having?
  • And what is the solution?

This works but only gets you so far.

If you have a broken leg of a chair, you can fix that because it has a clear problem and obvious solution.

  • But how do you fix poor cash flow?
  • How do you fix a low performing team?
  • And how do you fix not earning enough money from your ideas?

Albert Einstein - Problem-Change quote

Don’t Fix Your Problems

These types of deeper questions are not so easily fixed or solved because there are so many factors to be considered.

Plus, unless we get to the root cause of the problem it will simply return.

Ultimately, you don’t fix these problems.

When I first started meditation, I did it from my perceived need to relax. If I felt stressed, I’d meditate. If I didn’t feel stressed, I didn’t. You can probably see where this is going… it didn’t shift the problem. It became a tug of war between being stressed and meditating. It was only when I took on meditation because I enjoyed it, I practised more often and my levels of stress subsided.

As Albert Einstein once said ‘No problem can be solved at the same level at which it was created’.

When we try to shift a problem at the content level, the problem returns. We’ve all heard about shifting the deckchairs as the Titanic sank.

But when we shift the context, the problem can be transformed.

Two Types of Change


If you want to earn money from what you know you need to learn how to shift the context – to transform problems.

It’s what thought leaders do. They have different conversations to most people because they speak from a different context. It’s why they can lead.

The right idea changes everything.

Best of all, it can change it in an instant.

Let’s look at a couple of examples.

The right context shift changes everything.

Seth Godin, Purple Cow

Seth Godin is a marketing expert who has written 20 – yes 20 – worldwide best-selling books published in 37 languages.

One of his books, and one of my favourite books – is Purple Cow.

If you were driving down the road and saw a black and white cow standing in the field, you probably wouldn’t take a lot of notice of it because black and white cows are pretty common. If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.

But if you saw a purple cow you’d probably slam on the brakes, yell out: ‘#$%?! did you see that’, grab your smartphone and leap into the paddock with the purple cow to take a photo for your Insta-feed.

Seth Godin - Purple Cow

Being Remarkable

Remarkable things get noticed and they get talked about.

That’s what remarking means – to remark is to talk about.

When it comes to marketing and selling your products or services, this changes everything.

If your products and services are average and normal, nobody talks about them. It follows that if you have average products then you must make some noise and effort to sell them.

In contrast, if you made something that people talk about because it’s remarkable, then with the help of social media, then other people will do your promotion and sell for you.

Imagine how many views your photo of a purple cow on Instagram could get? It might even go viral.

Seth Godin’s Context Shift

Now here’s the big shift. Seth Godin is a marketing person.

Everything he writes about – all 20 best-selling books – are about marketing.

And his conclusion from writing his book Purple Cow, was that instead of investing more time money and effort into your marketing, you should spend more time, money and effort into your innovation.

Make your product or service remarkable.

This is the context shift: from marketing to innovation.

One simple metaphor about a cow becomes a dramatic transformation in what you should do next.

(Perhaps Seth’s next book should be on Innovation!)

From Marketing to Innovation

Change: Incremental Versus Transformational

This is the power of ideas.

When a context shift occurs, in a single moment of time your whole world can change. In this way, ideas can be transformational.

The right context shift changes everything. It can change how you do business in an instant.

Instant soup might not be good, but instant change through a context shift can be extraordinary.

That’s thought leadership – and that’s how you earn money from what you know.

How to Win a Football Premiership

A few years ago, I was coaching an ex-professional Australian Rules footballer.

He was working with local football clubs to help them win a premiership – win their Superbowl. And he had been successful in helping several clubs win premierships.

But he didn’t know how to talk about what he did in a distinct way.

Normally, when you think about how to win a football game, you think about:

  • Your star players,
  • Having the right game plan and
  • Improving your skills and your fitness.

You focus on the things that happen on the field.

But in talking through his experience, we realised something else.

You win the premiership off the field. It’s the strength of the club off the field that sets up the right actions that enable you to win a premiership.

This was his defining context shift.

How to win a football premiership

The Right Context Shift

The right context shift changes everything.

This is what you need to earn money from what you know as a thought leader.

You need to be able to tap into where your clients are currently at and transform the way they see what they do, so you can dramatically improve their situation.

When you can do that, clients will pay you money.

The Three Most Powerful Business Questions

This triggers the big question: What sort of context shift do you need to create?

There are three things to focus on here that can cause this transformation and earn you money.

They all address the identity level of your clients.

All your IP creation, your content marketing and your selling needs to focus on one of these three questions.

If you work with Individual Clients

The first question is: Who are you? Are you:

  • A consumer or creator of content?
  • Are you a follower or a leader?
  • Are you an employee or a business owner?

If you work with individuals, you want to highlight this shift in identity.

If you work with Business Clients

The second question is: What business are you in?

  • A content creator or media business?
  • Conference speaker or business expert?
  • Leader of people or leader of conversations?

If you work with businesses, you want to highlight this shift in identity.

If you work with Industry Level clients

And the third question is: What industry are you in?

  • Newspaper or media industry?
  • Football club or sporting brand?
  • Taxi service or transport business?

If you work with industry groups, you want to highlight this shift in identity.

When you change your answer to one of these three identity questions everything changes.

The Three Most Powerful Business Questions

Four Questions to Create your Context Shift

The big question you want to dwell on is this: What changes everything for your clients?

Don’t get lost in navel-gazing this question. Instead, have conversations with your clients and potential clients about these four questions.

1 What is the current context your clients are operating from?

The important thing here is that your clients won’t know what context they’re operating from – they’re like fish in water just swimming around doing their thing.

It’s your job as an external advisor and thought leader to distinguish this and label it.

2 What problems do they want solved?

Your clients will be able to say this. They will be aware of the problem. They will know what’s keeping them awake at night.

But they won’t know what to do about. And even if they do, it’ll be instant soup – a band-aid that will give temporary relief but not resolve the problem long-term.

Again, this is your job to offer the best solution once you have worked exactly what the problem is.

3 What is a better context to operate from?

This is where you earn your money. You’ll have to work out what is a better context to operate from.

This is the key to your thought leadership.

It’s the new context that makes the old context obsolete.

Most importantly, you’ll need to call it something.

  • Is it a Purple Cow?
  • Is it the Special Theory of Relativity?
  • Or perhaps it’s the Content Creation Canvas?

4 What does success or transformation look like?

We’re not looking for better, we’re looking for different.

In Star Wars, Luke Skywalker didn’t become a better farmer; he was transformed into a legendary Jedi master.

If you don’t stop and spend the time to consider what transformation looks like, then you’ll never create transformational results.

How to create Content Pillars

Summary: How Thought Leaders earn money from what they know

To earn money from what you know you need to package and design your ideas to create value that your clients will pay for.

You could do this by packaging up your ideas into instant soup – readymade, off the shelf solutions.

But to be a thought leader you need to think about this differently. You need to create an instant shift through changing the context your clients operate from.

To achieve this, think of transformation and not merely change.

Content Creation Canvas - Part 4 - Manifesto

To make this happen you’ll have to work out:

  1. The context they are currently operating from and
  2. Then define a better context to operate from.

The big question you need to answer from this video is this: What changes everything for your clients?

This is the key to your IP creation, your content marketing and your sales process.

When you have a good answer for this question, then you can move onto our next video in this series where we’ll discuss your steps, your principles or your rules for making this happen.

More on the Thought Leadership Way

Comment Question

What changes everything for your clients? And what does transformation look like?


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