There have been a lot of times throughout the beginning of my career where I’ve felt clueless.

Sometimes I feel like a naive child fumbling around trying to learn how to crawl. It’s all a part of being new to something, it’s the beginner’s experience. But that doesn’t make it less frustrating. You look at successful people online and sit in meetings at work and wonder, “how do I get in that club?”

There are two things I’m focusing on that are helping me whittle away at this thing called marketing and business. They’re based on a classic quote with a great addition courtesy of my boss, who talked through this idea with me.

“Strong opinions, loosely held, rigorously tested.”

Seek Contrarian Views

I read, listen, and watch a lot about marketing (maybe too much). Along with my gut, what I’ve consumed has helped shape my worldview on marketing, how it should be done, and what supposedly works. Generally, learning from smart people is a good thing, but it turns out there was one key issue.

I was learning from people who all thought the same things. They all agreed with each other, taught similar ideas, and ran similar businesses. My gut told me what I thought to be true about marketing, and when these influencers taught something I agreed with my views cemented themselves. I quickly became indoctrinated, and confirmation bias reigned.

As with all facets of life, shutting yourself off to things you don’t agree with is the quickest path to ignorance. You have to be willing to listen to contrarian views and people who think differently than you. It’s the only way to balance yourself out, and it’s the only way to start thinking for yourself. As a marketer, I should be seeking out people who do things a different way than I do. I should watch what marketers in different industries and landscapes do, I should learn from artists and those outside business who have an opinion I can learn from.

In a world of thought leaders and best practices, you’ll never win by following as I was doing. Best practices are named because people have already done them, and once a new marketing strategy or tactic goes big it gets copied and run into the ground. You know the saying ‘marketers ruin everything,’ right? It’s true.

Learning from differing opinions allows you to have a balanced worldview and understanding from which to create your own ideas. I’ve struggled a lot coming up with my own ideas about marketing because my entire experience was pigeonholed into one way of thinking about it. I was following and not thinking for myself.

Broaden your horizons, read something different, trust your gut but also let it change as you learn.

Strong opinions, loosely held…

Action

…rigorously tested. I’ve read, listened, and watched hours upon hours of material about marketing, and I still feel naive because I haven’t done it.

The more I’ve tried to learn by consuming, the weaker my argument for it has become.

Nothing happens unless you act. Act as much as possible, do things, ship things, try things. You can be a great marketer by trying a ton without reading books (many have done it), but you can’t be the other way around.

Please still read, books are great, but if you find you are reading as an excuse to say you’re learning when you really should be acting, then you need to put the book down.

Strong opinions, loosely held, rigorously tested

I love this simple quote because it sums up a lot. Strong opinions are great, but be open to questioning them, and always test them. Feel a certain way about a marketing channel or strategy? Great, test it and see if you’re right. Check your ego at the door, and if you’re wrong be okay admitting it.

It’s okay to be a bit naive early in your career, you don’t know what you don’t know. But seek to understand, and act to learn, and you’ll find you quickly start feeling like you can hold your own.