Improve Any Creative Skill Using this Strategy from a World-Famous Fighter

Ken Shamrock’s Plus, Minus, Equal

August Birch
Sep 28, 2020 · 6 min read
Photo by dylan nolte on Unsplash

As a content addict I’m always on the lookout for new strategies to improve my craft. Sometimes the best strategies come from places outside our circle of competence.

This strategy is no exception.

Whether you appreciate mixed martial arts or not, it’s irrelevant here. Ken Shamrock has a unique coaching method that applies directly to writers and creators too.

Now retired from competitive fighting, Shamrock is known world-wide, for being one of the top 10 MMA fighters of all time. This fighting legend took his expertise from the ring and aimed his competitive laser towards coaching.

Shamrock developed a coaching method for new fighters. He calls this ‘plus, minus, equal.’

You can use this same method for anything you’d like to master.

Whether it’s a new language, writing, painting, coding, public speaking, video, a hands-on craft — anything — plus, minus, equal will not only increase the speed in which you improve, it’ll make you better than you thought you could be.

Plus, minus, equal

The idea behind the strategy is to view your craft through three different lenses. Not only is this a practice in humility, it also opens our weaknesses with fast, 360 feedback.

Plus —

Find a mentor or coach better than you. This is your pro. You need a person who’s been there and done that. Someone who already fell 1,000 times and and stood 1,001.

Your mentor made all your mistakes and more. She can spot the flaws, knock you down a peg, and tweak the smallest abnormality to make your best work better.

This applies directly to writers and creators.

When you have a better mentor — one who came before you — you can’t hide your weakness under pride, or fancy talk. Your plus will find the errors. This is how we improve every day.

When you have a plus, you get an instant-download of someone else’s life. Your plus is like a stepladder over all the beginner’s hurdles you’d make had you not brought the right coach into your life.

Minus —

Your minus is someone below your skill level. We need a minus to help train ourselves. Just as the old saying goes if you want to learn something better, teach someone else.

Using your minus, you must learn to explain your craft in language everyone can understand. Not only the layperson, but the pro as well.

With your minus, you’ll find the weak spots in your knowledge. Maybe you have trouble explaining something clearly. Or your minus stumps you with a question.

We learn by showing others what we know in a way that’s clear as possible.

This doesn’t mean you ‘dumb it down.’ We learn to teach our methods as clear as possible — distilling the content down to only the important steps. And we earn that ability with our minus.

Equal —

Your equal is exactly as it sounds. This person is a comrade. Your equal holds you accountable for your daily work.

Whether this is a creative friend, or someone on a similar path as you, your equal knows what you’ve been through and where your going. She’s experienced a similar path herself.

While the plus might be ultra-critical and lack the empathy for what you’re going-through now — maybe moving too fast for you to grasp everything needed to improve — your minus will slow you down.

You’ve got to explain every step to the minus to ensure she understands.

This doesn’t leave much time to improve yourself.

When we have an equal, they know what you know. This is a training partner. There’s nothing to explain. All you do is focus on the doing of the work.

Your equal is a sounding-board, “hey, what do you think of this?”

Your equal is a shoulder to cry on.

Your equal keeps your honest in your craft and won’t let you slack when times get tough. Where you plus might be real hard on you, your equal is there to prop you up when your knees get kicked from under you.

Using this three-person approach, we can apply it to any creative skill we want to master.

Whether you’re a writer or creator, plus, minus, equal will almost force you to improve. Better tomorrow than you are today.

Better tomorrow

James Altucher shares his 1% rule with us. We take the plus, minus, equal and give ourselves a daily, 1% improvement goal to grow our skill overall. The idea is you improve your craft by 1% every day. Borrowed from the Japanese Kaizen method of manufacturing improvements — tiny, daily, incremental changes lead to big results.

By the end of the year, the tiny, daily improvements compound, like investment income.

After 365 days you’re not 365% better (only 3.5 times better), you’re 38 times better!

While you can’t really measure a 1% improvement in say, your writing skill, you can strive to improve one small thing.

  • Maybe you work to remove excess adverbs from your writing
  • Or you record yourself to pull the ‘umms’ and ‘ahhhs’ from your keynote
  • Perhaps you work today to improve one type of brushstroke with your sign-painting
  • Or you try to explain a key component of your training method with better, slightly-more-clear language than you used yesterday

Even those examples might be larger than 1%.

A 1% improvement isn’t much. The beauty lies in the power of compounding. And to gain these small, daily improvements we can’t do it alone.

We don’t have all the answers.

We learn to ask better questions with our team of plus, minus, equal.

What if you don’t have live mentors?

Find alternatives in books and video lectures. Even inline courses. While personalized training may be the best, you can do almost as well through the legacy work of those who came before you.

You’ll never have access to Benjamin Franklin, Michael Jordan, Elon Musk, Oprah Winfrey, J.K, Rowling, or Steve Jobs.

But those folks can still be your plus, using the lessons they’ve left behind as they blazed their own path. Find your minus within the tribe your serve. And your equal can be another creator in your industry, on a similar path as yourself.

Build your ‘plus, minus, equal’ tribe

When you grow a list of people you serve, you’ve got instant access. Not only can you find your minuses and your equals, but there are probably many pluses on your list as well.

I’ve got accountants, attorneys, New York Times bestselling authors, copywriters, fiction authors, consultants and more, in my tribe. I’d be an idiot to think I have all the answers.

I can tap into these relationships any time I need to.

And I’ve created that ability, using the power of my email list. When you’ve got email you never have to worry about invisibility again. And you don’t have to pay for ads to reach your best people.

With email, it’s like having a bat phone, directly to your customers.

Your plus, minus, and equals are already out there. All you need is a way to contact them and allow them into your life so, not only can you build a dream-team in your corner, but so you can help others get what they want from life.

I’ve got something. Just for you

When you build a tribe around your best work, even if you’re starting-out, you’ve got an instant audience when you’re ready to fly.

I built a free email masterclass for you. I hand-crafted the whole thing. It took me a couple months. I call the masterclass the Tribe 1K.

I’ll show you how to get your first 1,000 (or your next 1,000) readers without spending a hot nickel on ads. Past students include New York Times bestselling authors. Yep, the ones you see in the bookstore.

Your email list will help you build a legacy creative business.

If you want to grow your creative business you need email before you lose that valuable reader. Start your list before you need one. Once you need a list it’s almost too late.

Tap the link.

Guarantee your seat before I charge an enrollment fee.

We’re waiting for you.

Enroll in my Free Email Masterclass. Get Your First 1,000 Subscribers

August Birch (AKA the Book Mechanic) is both a fiction and non-fiction author from Michigan, USA. As a self-appointed email marketing expert for writers and creators, August helps indies make more work that sells and sell more work they make. The core of August’s process is your email list. When he’s not writing or thinking about writing, August hangs-out with his beautiful wife and handsome son, carries a pocket knife, and shaves his head with a safety razor.

The Book Mechanic

Down-and-dirty growth strategies for commercial writers and…

August Birch

Written by

Indie Creator | Top 1,000 Medium Writer | Marketing Strategies | Tap for My Free, Tribe 1K Email Masterclass: bookmechanicmedia.com/your-first-1000-subscribers/

The Book Mechanic

Down-and-dirty growth strategies for commercial writers and creators, with a blue collar work ethic, and a no-nonsense voice.

August Birch

Written by

Indie Creator | Top 1,000 Medium Writer | Marketing Strategies | Tap for My Free, Tribe 1K Email Masterclass: bookmechanicmedia.com/your-first-1000-subscribers/

The Book Mechanic

Down-and-dirty growth strategies for commercial writers and creators, with a blue collar work ethic, and a no-nonsense voice.

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store