Back when I was writing the first batch of my 10-Locals city guides, I ran into an interesting character.
For those unfamiliar with my guidebooks: they are collections of interviews with interesting locals. Interviews about the best of their cities. The hidden gems. The best hiking trails. The cool hidden-away speakeasy bars.
And in that first batch of guidebooks, when I was gathering up interesting locals to interview, I reached out to a man who had literally written the book on his city’s beer scene.
He was incredibly knowledgeable and interesting and I knew he’d be a great addition to the book. So I emailed: explained the project, told him I loved what I’d seen of his work, and asked if he’d like to participate.
A short time later, I received an email saying no.
But not because of a lack of time or interest or expertise.
The answer was no because he saw me as competition. He thought if someone bought my book, they wouldn’t buy his.
I wrote back and said I totally understood if he wasn’t interested, but I personally didn’t see us as competition at all. My book was an insider’s guide to the city. His was a much more in-depth guide to the city’s beer scene. If a beer connoisseur loved his interview in my book, which they’d purchased for $9.99, why not buy his mini guide for $1.99?
My guide, I said, wasn’t in competition with his. It was a chance for him to advertise his amazing knowledge and get a few more readers for his book.
After hearing what I had to say, he wrote back and agreed to do an interview.
And despite being years ago now, that interaction really stuck with me.
Because I think it’s really easy to see those around us as competition. To decide not to collaborate because what if they take our business? It’s easy to be scared.
But over and over again I’ve found that it’s more productive to see those around you not as competition but as potential collaborators.
People traveling to a new city don’t just buy one guidebook and call it a day. They don’t just visit one blog and never visit another. They don’t just work with one copywriter for the rest of their lives and never need additional help.
In fact, just this year, I’ve sent at least a dozen copywriting projects that weren’t a good fit for me out to other great writers via writing groups I belong to. And through other writers/collaborative groups, I’ve landed several gigs that were a great fit (including an assignment updating a travel guide in Mexico later this year).
This is how I approached my guidebooks, too. I wasn’t trying to beat Fodor’s or Rick Steves or Lonely Planet. I was trying to add a missing piece.
In the intro to my guides, I make it clear: they are not lists of restaurants with star ratings, lists of all the hotels in the area, or in-depth historical discussions on locations. That’s all been done and done well elsewhere. What I wanted to do was something that I hadn’t seen done well elsewhere: connect travelers with the advice of real, interesting, vetted locals.
In other words: I’m not in competition with the big guys. I’m filling a different need. And my guides are often bought in conjunction with those big-name guides.
Which brings me to my point: What if we all took this mindset? What if we saw our fellow writers and strategists, entrepreneurs and creatives, as potential collaborators, as people to work with?
How would that change the way we work? The way we connect? The way we see the world?
I have a feeling it would infuse things with just a bit more joy and abundance.