If you make a thing, become a connoisseur of that thing

Many people try to make a thing — an app, a book, or even just a blog post — and find it damn hard to get anyone to care. They scratch their head, wondering where they went wrong.

The problem isn’t that they released their blog post on a Wednesday instead of a Tuesday. The problem is they didn’t read enough blog posts before they wrote that blog post.

If you’re going to make something, you need to become a connoisseur of that thing. You need to not only take every chance possible to consume that thing, you need to appreciate it on multiple levels.

There once was a group of eight friends who were self-described “nerds.” They didn’t play sports, and they didn’t have girlfriends, and they were bored.

So, they made up their own card game. Now it’s the #1-selling game on all of Amazon. In fact, it’s #1 on all of the “Toys & Games” category. Tickle Me Elmo’s got nothing on them. They’ve made millions.

Cool story, right? Except I left out the part where they became connoisseurs.

Yes, they were bored before they made their card game. They were so bored that they had played every other game imaginable to the point that they practically had to make their own game. They had played Balderdash so many times that they couldn’t play it anymore because they knew all of the hundreds of strange words in the game (such as widdershins).

So, they experimented with making their own games. Some of them were bad. But the games kept getting better, until they created Cards Against Humanity. You’ve probably played it before.

Whether you’re building an app, writing blog posts, or making energy bars in your kitchen, you need to become a connoisseur. If you don’t know—inside-out—the experience of anticipating, purchasing, using, and reflecting upon that thing, you have no hope of crafting that experience for others.

If you’re making energy bars, you’d better eat lots of energy bars. You aren’t just thinking about how they taste. You’re thinking about how they’re manufactured—what are the margins? You’re thinking about how the ingredients are sourced. You’re thinking about how they’re positioned against other energy bars. Does the packaging stand out on the shelves? Who has had breakout successes in the energy bar industry, and how did they succeed?

Likewise, if you’re writing a book, you’d better have read a shitload of books. It’s not just a bunch of words on a stack of papers. You’re thinking about the implicit and explicit promises of the titles. Which books compete with this book, and why would someone buy one book over the other?

When you become a connoisseur, you switch your mind from simply being a maker, to also being a consumer. Each time you try a new beard oil, download a new app, or take your first bite of an energy bar, you’re parsing the experience through your framework understanding of your craft. You can use your unique framework understanding to make something that other people will care about.

Cards Against Humanity co-creator Max Temkin will share more about how they became connoisseurs on my podcast next Thursday. Subscribe here »