The Maker, The Manager, and The Coach
The missing persona that every creator needs.
When I decided to dive into writing I left the life of a manager and became a maker.
I never really realized I made this transition. I thought I was a maker all along. The truth was I spent my time planning and strategizing and not making.
It wasn’t until I dedicated myself to writing that I realized how different the maker mindset and the manager mindset were.
Just to give some more context in case your not sure of the difference between the two.
- Maker — Deals with stuff and the creation of it. (writers, engineers, coders, designers, artists)
- Manager — deals with people and strategy. (managers, business owners, salespeople, directors, etc…)
Diving into the maker mentality I noticed there was something missing.
My ‘strategy,’ if you can call it that, for my success as a writer/content creator is to create a lot. And by a lot I mean, put your head down for the next year or two and do nothing but write.
Although this means I’m mostly a maker, I still use that manager part of me as well. Mainly for side projects I’m working on or keeping my life together. You know… do your laundry, go vote, buy groceries, that kind of stuff.
And as Paul Graham wrote in his infamous essay Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule, switching between maker and manager throughout the day is quite difficult. I’m still learning how to do this cohesively. But that’s an article for a different day.
I noticed, that there is a different mentality, or archetype if you will, that’s more important to me now than that of the manager.
Enter: The Coach
If the maker deals with creating things, and the manager runs the business side of things, the coach deals in the development and improvement of the maker.
Before we go any further it’s important to note that I’m not necessarily suggesting you go hire a coach. I’m sure a coach would be a good investment. In fact, I know a coach is a good investment, but I don’t have one.
This is about the role you need to play as your own coach.
The coach in you is more concerned with the performance of the maker than with the business as a whole.
The coach is the person who improves your writing, not the person who gets you interviews and book deals. That’s the manager.
The easiest analogy is that of any sport. In this case, the player is the maker.
In sports, the coach brings the players to practice every day and looks for ways to improve them. They create practice drills, assess the player's strengths and weaknesses, and create a strategy that fits the player's skill level.
The game isn’t the coach's craft. The players are. The coach creates and orchestrates the player/s like a conductor. Meanwhile, the player's manager gets them sponsors, press, and manages their money.
How then, can you embody this coach archetype and develop yourself as a player?
A coach creates an accurate assessment of your skill level.
If you were coaching someone else, and you were an expert in what you were coaching, assessing someone's skill level is easy.
However, being your own coach, assessing your own skill level is the hardest thing you have to do. It’s hard to be honest with yourself. It’s much easier to feel that we are better than we are or worse than we are so that we feel a sense of security in our actions.
We tell ourselves we are better than we are to avoid the hard work of actually getting better. In a competitive environment, we don’t like to hear that we are below our competition, so we’ll gladly create the fantasy that we are above our true level of competency.
This of course means we are missing chances to improve ourselves, and we will eventually be passed or beaten by people working harder to improve. If it’s not already happening.
On the other side, we tell ourselves we are worse than we really are to feel a sense of comfort. It is okay to fail then or to not even try, because we know we’re not that good at this.
Either way, this inaccurate assessment of ourselves hurts us. Only when we accurately assess our skill level can we (the coach) determine where we need to spend our time practicing. And only through practice can we improve.
In my opinion, it’s better to under-assess yourself than assume your better than you are. At least if you think you’re weaker in some areas you will work harder to improve. Whether or not that weakness is true, you’ll be better for it.
The problem here comes when you let that ‘weakness’ create insecurities that stop you from practicing. That’s when you need to put your coaching hat on and detach from your current skill level, and only consider how you’re going to improve.
A coach creates a strategy based on your strengths.
Now that you (the coach) have an accurate assessment of yourself, you can create a strategy that fits.
Before knowing your strengths there is a pull to create a strategy based on the success of other people. It’s easy to find a writers' story of how they became successful and begin following in their footsteps. This usually fails for many reasons.
- You can’t occupy the same niche as someone else and expect to find the same success.
- This doesn’t consider your own natural strengths and weaknesses.
To name a few.
What the coach needs to do is find your strategic advantage.
If you're like me, for example, and are decent at thoughtfully creating content, but not so good at the digital palm-greasing that goes into creating a social media following, then focus on more long-forms of content that you can create by yourself.
If you’re better at creating smaller pieces of content and connecting with people online, try focusing on LinkedIn or another social platform you can excel in.
Not good at writing but you are good at structuring content? Try video.
These are all content creating examples, but if you’re a coder or any other type of creator, think in the same terms.
A coach creates a practice schedule for you to follow.
This is where the magic happens.
The most important thing that the coach does is create a practice schedule. Without it, there is no way to assess the player accurately and no way to improve the player.
If you want to improve yourself as a maker of anything, the one key is repetition. Repetition is the lifeblood of a writer, a football player, a coder, a designer, or a builder.
As a coach, you need to identify what you (the maker) need to be practicing and getting better at. You’ll need to determine how you can get better at the specific parts you’re weak in as well.
This means creating practice drills.
For example, I’ve recognized in my own writing that I could use some work on my headlines. They’re not that grabby.
So I’ve created a drill where for every article I write, I make 10 or so variations of the headline. I also save headlines that grabbed my attention and ask myself, ‘what made me click on this article?’
Another part of creating a practice schedule is creating extremely short term goals. A player can’t concern herself with the bigger picture. That’s the coach and the manager's job. The bigger picture for the player is often a distraction. The player only cares about game time.
That’s why the coach’s job is the keep the player's focus short term. By this I mean what are your goals for today? In other words, what are you going to do today? What are you going to do this week?
You don’t want the maker to focus on the result, but to focus on the actions specifically. The results come through repetition.
I'm still developing this archetype of the coach myself, however, it’s already been a great help for me.
The idea of accurately assessing my skill level alone helped me make a lot of progress in getting better and understanding what I need to work on most.
Every maker who has accomplished something great has a coach or mentor who filled the coach role. Maybe you don’t have that right now, I don’t, so for now you’ll have to do it for yourself.