Margin or Mainstream? Do You Have the Courage to Live and Work an Inch Wide?
Updated: Apr 18
This question came to me through the years as a challenge, to look at myself and look at my work and determine, am I in the mainstream, where everyone is, and if I am, why? If I'm not brave enough to live and work in the margin, why not?
What is keeping me from going there? What is the difference between the two? What I've come to discover over recent years is something I wish I'd known and embraced years ago, but I wasn't ready. Back in the day, I didn't see that being in the margin was really my truest space of greatest alignment.
Now that I know, live and work that everyday, I wouldn't trade it! It's what I'm hoping to help you discover about yourself as well.
The mainstream is a noisy, crowded space. It is incredibly hard to rise above that noise, and breakthrough the din of all that's going on there. That's where you're going to see copycats, wannabes, lookalikes, and endless FOMO--where the fear of missing out on what others are doing replaces the fear of missing out on what is unique to you and what you could be doing.
What ends up happening is that fear turns you into a puddle jumper and dabbler. It's that bright, shiny objects syndrome of into chasing down this and that, because we're not sure of who we are.
We're not sure what our gifts are. We haven't fully discovered and embraced our unique strengths, experiences, knowledge and expertise. So, we're drawn by these other things, things.
In the mainstream, things are homogenized, safer, and predictable. You might try to be a generalist so that you fit in and you might try to change so that you're doing what everyone else is doing. The question is, what is that doing to you? Where is that leaving you?
I'm sure you hear this constantly and are asked, "What's your niche?" and "Who's your target market? Who are you trying to reach?" If you say that you can reach everybody, it will often mean it's nobody.
I've learned over the years just how critical is is to "Niche Down." I loved reading that book, and I would love for you to read it, too. Here's why: When you niche in to your work and tribe, when you stay true to your work and the purpose it serves, you're in the margin. And, it's the very best place you could be. Not just so you can become more visible to your target audience. So that you can live in greater harmony and congruence within yourself.
That's why I feel most at home in the Sage Success Tribe. I am 'at home' with the other midlife women entrepreneurs who, like me, want to live in their greatest alignment, doing their truest and best work for a tribe they absolutely love!
This has been part of the process for me over the years. And I know it will be that way for you. It will allow you to put breadcrumbs of trust along the way so that people can follow you and little by little, get to you especially when it's so loud and noisy.
When you're in the mainstream, trying to be seen by everyone, visible to everyone, then you've kind of put yourself in the middle of the crowd and it is much harder to find those bread crumbs. It's harder to find the path to your door. If you try to serve the masses, it's too broad and too hard to find that place where you fit.
By contrast, let's look at what it means to be in the margin, right? And it took me the longest time to realize that the margin is the very best place I could be, because that meant I was being 100% true to me, that was my blue ocean.
Another great read as you embrace the beauty and potential of the margin. So if you've not read the book Blue Ocean Strategy or understand the concept of blue ocean strategy, it is really where you do not have competition, it's when you're standing true to yourself. You live from an entirely different energy and mindset when you start to think like this. Everything shifts and changes.
You begin to see that in the margin, it's quieter and there's much greater clarity. There's greater alignment. You're true to yourself and your unique self. And then, your heart is all about your tribe. You're niching down, you're niching in, and you're not afraid of doing that. Too often, people are afraid to niche down because they're afraid of who they might leave behind.
They questions themselves. "What about this person? What about that person?" Rather than understanding the main group of people that is ideal for them to be serving is their "niche down" tribe.
When you're in the margin, you can stand out because you know who you are. I love when Stu McLaren says this: "Love me, or hate me. There's no money in the middle." I think that is one of the greatest sayings because too many times, we try to hang in the gray and straddle both sides. And what if I'm over here, and over here, and we just start dissipating our energy and our distinctive and the things that are really us.
And this is where I'm going to encourage you at midlife. Let's not do that. We don't have time for that. We want to do it differently. So this is where you stand out. This is where you create your signature blend. This is who you are: Your tribe, your content and your deliverables, showcasing your expertise and creating engagement strategies that are all you as follow up and nurture those you most want to serve.
That's all you, is that possible? A hundred percent. Yes. I'm living proof of that. It meant I had to let go of stuff. No doubt. I had to let go of stuff, but it also meant that I came home to myself, which is so wonderful. You can't believe how wonderful that is.
"It's more noble to give yourself completely to one person than to labor tirelessly for the masses." Dag Hammerskjold
I've translated that: It is more noble to give myself to my tribe, then try to reach everyone. Even one person in my tribe and community, not everyone but SOME ONE!
I've always said your message should be like a dog whistle to the people it's meant for. So who is your message meant for? And are you brave enough to do that? Are you brave enough to go an inch? Do you have the courage to go an inch wide and a mile deep?
When we are all over the place, we're in the main stream. We're a mile wide, we're on a pogo stick, hopscotching all over the place. It is far harder for us to be heard and to get our message out there where it really breaks through the noise. It really comes into that space of our blue ocean.
Sometimes, we're not even sure what that is. But could you come home to yourself by saying yes to yourself? Yes to your gifts, your knowledge, your wisdom, your strengths, and your gifts at midlife.
Who are you going to serve? What are you going to do for them? How are you going to do it so that it feels like you're not even working? Instead it feels so hands and glove; so tailor made, it's like you're putting it on like a garment that is absolutely tailored for you. That's the work we should be doing, especially now in the season of our lives at midlife.
Margin or mainstream, masterpiece or paint by number. Maybe when we hear words like epic, legendary or masterpiece, we think, "Wow, that's too big; it's too much."
But what if our masterpiece was actually just small acts of grace, greatness done day after day after day. Serving the people we're meant to serve, because we love them. We're doing the work we're meant to do because we love it. And then just doing that with excellence in our zone of genius, day after day. Small acts in the same direction; little hinges swing big doors.
What can we do that is really going to allow us to just embrace the margin?
Do you want to be in the noise? In the din, with the lookalikes and FOMO and copycats? Or do you want to rise above the noise, and be in that clarity? Stand in that sense of who you are, coming forward in confidence and authority, true to your gifts, strengths, knowledge and wisdom. Stand in what is tailor made for you.
My goal and my hope for you is that you will do your greatest work yet at midlife.
And that is only going to be found as you stay true to the differential and all the things that are uniquely you. It happens when you stay in the margin, not worrying so much about the mainstream. This is where you rise above just being a commodity. You want to be unique to yourself, to the gifts you've been given. Own the margin, 100%. An inch wide and a mile deep.
Leave a comment below if any of this is resonating with you. I look forward to hearing from you!