the easiest question to uncover your niche

As we approach the launch of my six week Niching for Hippies coaching program, I’ve been writing and thinking a lot about niching.

And one thing has gotten clearer and clearer to me over the past month: your niche is often you.

A while back, I wrote a blog post about how our deepest wounds can be a doorway to our truest niche. And then a few weeks ago, I wrote a bit more about how your niche is often you.

Or at least who you used to be.

And I want to hone in on that theme here. 

Because, I think there’s one question you can ask yourself which will take you closer to figuring out your most authentic niche than anything I know.

A question that’s so simple and so obvious but so clear that you it might surprise you.

Here’s the question: “What have you had to overcome in your life to be where you are today?”

That’s it.

Think about it. You’ve had to overcome a lot in your life to be where you are: heartbreak, death, profound loss, deep loneliness, cruelty from others etc. 

And to survive that, you had to adapt. You had to learn to get good at certain things. You had to develop skills. And maybe life just pulverized you into submission and you had to learn the art of letting go. Maybe you became charming, maybe you got good at art, maybe you learned a lot about compassion, maybe you had to learn a lot about how life really works vs. how you wished it might.

My guess is that to deal with your wounds you might have talked to a lot of friends, gone to workshops, sought out counseling, gone back to school.

Overcoming things is not easy work.

And the word ‘overcome’ here is important.

I’m not just asking you to think about where you’ve struggled in life. Struggle doesn’t imply any kind of growth or learning. I’m asking you to consider where in your life you’ve really made progress. Maybe you didn’t make it as far as you would have liked, but you’re further than you were (and maybe further than you ever imagined you’d be).

Maybe you used to be really overweight. And now you’re still a bit overweight but you’ve made so much progress.

Maybe you used to be deep in debt and you’re not all the way out but you’re well on your way.

Maybe you were shattered by heartbreak and, you’re not 100% over it but you’re 75% over it.

Maybe you used to feel anxious and depressed all the time and now it’s only some of the time.

You’ve made progress. You’ve overcome it in a lot of ways. You’re not longer trapped in the quicksand of the problem.

And that qualifies you to help anyone who has made less progress than you, anyone who’s a few steps behind you in their journey. You don’t have to posture and pretend to be an expert or to be perfect. To offer help you just need to be a few steps ahead. 

Another way of putting it: haven’t you become the very person whose help you needed when you were younger?

Dike Drummond of The Happy MD who was featured in yesterday’s blog post said it so well of his past as a burned out Medical Doctor, 

I realized that the person I have become here in 2012 is the exact person I would have so loved to meet back in 1998 … and if we had met, I am pretty sure I would still be practicing medicine in some fashion today. Once I realized this and saw the amount of burnout – and suffering – out there … the purpose of these last 12 years of my life became crystal clear. 

Imagine if younger you could have had the insights and experience you have now. Imagine if, somehow, you could have given yourself the mentorship and guidance that you so needed back then (and that you would have listened). 

Well, this world is full of ‘younger yous’. It’s not too late. There are so many people trapped in the swamps of the very issues you have overcome and made so much progress in. 

Can you think of any group of people you are more qualified to help than them?

Can you think of any person they might be happier to see than you? Someone who’s already been through it.

Can you think of any group of people you’d be happier to help? Any kind of work that would be more meaningful?

I invite you to sit with this question: “What have you had to overcome in your life to be where you are today?” 

Your answers might surprise you, free you and delight others.


Want Help? If you’d like some more direct guidance and hand holding on figuring out your niche then go and check out my Niching for Hippies coaching program

About Tad

  • I create amazing technical learning. (I’m an instructional designer — the guy who figures out how to teach technical types how to make things work for you — computer networks, cell phones, banking systems, etc.) But I don’t know how to DO any of that stuff myself, I partner with someone who is an expert, and we build a course together.

    When I started in training, I taught computer applications like Microsoft Word, where I was the smart guy who knew everything. It was really great, standing up in front of a room of people, having all of them say “Wow — Dick really is smart — he knows EVERYTHING!”

    This is how most teachers and trainers start out in my business. They love the adulation and positive feedback they get from learners in a class. But what this means is that the learners aren’t learning much, if the teacher is just showing off all they know.

    I had to develop as a teacher to realize that I had to change my style to focus on a way of teaching so that the LEARNER left my class with knowledge and tools to succeed in what they were doing. And that means way more DOING and their part, and lots less TALKING on my part.

    Some people never make this switch. You see them lecturing, on and on, as people nod off.

  • disqus_ZH9eZ5nBMX

    Tad, I am rarely stopped and taken totally in when reading blog posts. I skim them and move on. This one I was going to skim quickly—got a lot of work to do ya’ know—-but found myself slowing down and introspecting on the matters you so beautifully opened up for consideration.

    This is truly an insightful post and one that has caused me to decide to check out a lot more of yours. Thank you very much for your contribution to my life and others by sharing you.

    Blessings & success,

  • WOW! Holy cow. I love that question Tad! That’s awesome! *sharing*!!

  • Nancy Juetten

    Niching …. such a journey for all of us, no matter how far we’ve come or how far we still need to go.

    I used to think that “spotlight seekers dissatisfied with their wattage and ready to take action to change that” were my ideal client to benefit from the visibility coaching, tools, and training I provide via my company at Authentic Visibility.

    The more I peeled back the onion to really examine if this was truly the most specific niche, the more the lights went on for me. I figured out that somewhat introverted business owners on missions to do important things — in addition to making a good living — and serious about learning the skills and gaining the confidence to step up and be heart are the people I can serve best. These people both need my support and are prepared to invest wisely to get it so they can journey forward under their own power for the lives of their successful businesses and have their voices heard to impact their results.

    And why is that? Because I am a lot like them. These are “my people.”
    This is both an “aha” and a “duh” moment at the same time. Imagine that.

    Thanks Tad for inspiring so many of us to get this right at long last!

  • Nicole Moen

    Ho. Lee. Tad. Seriously. I do read your stuff as much as I can. When Alex reposted this, I knew I should read it. I got to the question and burst into tears. I mean it. Full out messy bawling. I felt like I’d spontaneously been give a huge gift of great value. Like I felt when I was in a really rough time in my life and someone I was staying with for a couple of days gave me a little Coptic cross from Ethiopia (looks Celtic) just out of the blue. I burst into tears I was so touched with his kindness in the midst of my pain. I too will share it and, do my best to live it too. Thank you. Like really. Thank you.

  • thanks melodee. so glad you liked it :-)

  • me too! i can’t believe i hadn’t really ‘seen’ it before.

  • <3 so happy!

  • Rosa Gaia

    This is great, Tad. I think a lot about the unique opportunities that the struggles in our lives give us to empower others and motivate ourselves to act, but I have been wrestling a little bit with the idea when it comes to participating in activist movements.

    The idea of looking back on our past to see what fundamentally drives us and using that to power to create the change we want to see in the world is an important principle in community organizing that I think can be applied to a lot of things. The only thing I struggle with in terms of using personal stories and experiences with oppression and hardship is how to approach being a part of movements when you are coming from a position of privilege. At times, I think it is really useful to include myself in the group of people I am advocating for by recognizing my own struggle (eg. raising money for blood cancer after losing my mom to it, being partof the 99% in the Occupy movement) but at times I think that it can be more powerful and honest to come with full recognition that I am not a victim of a certain oppressive structure (like when participating in anti-poverty work, anti-racist work and immigration reform). I don’t think that being in a position of privilege in these realms means that I shouldn’t participate because it doesn’t fit my niche- rather, I think it is an obligation and a social responsibility to stand in solidarity with oppressed people. I know this is digressing a bit, but I’d love to hear your thoughts…

  • hey rosa :-) always so good to hear from you. a bit of a digression. I think that so long as the issues (let’s say racism) are framed in ‘charity’ way (let me help those oppressed people over there with their issues caused by other people) we will not see much happen beyond a few guilty white activists trying to get the approval of people of colour. I think what’s vital is for everyone to see the ways that this system doesn’t work for them. For white people to get it that their ‘privileges’ actually hurt them. We all carry some privileges. Ways we are treated better than others and ways our feelings and needs are given more status and value than those of others. And that whole set up of some people being ‘more worthy’ than others hurts everybody. The privileged and the oppressed. I wrote this piece about gender issues but feel like it applies across the board. The shift from charity to solidarity (where we see it as our struggle too) feels like such an important shift to make. And, just because I haven’t experienced institutionalized racism doesn’t mean i haven’t experienced exclusion, prejudice and the like against me. In different ways, at different extremes, but it feels so healing and important for everyone to be able to connect with their own suffering so they can feel compassion for the suffering of others and work to end that suffering. And, I feel strongly that everyone has their own place in the revolution. Everyone has their own gifts to give. Communities they can reach better than anyone. Ways they can be a bridge between communities. I’m not sure any of this directly addresses your wonderings.

  • What a beautiful insight. Thanks so much for putting your thoughts into words. I will share this with my life-coaching clients.

  • This is *totally* the easiest question to uncover your niche. I have been bamboozled by this niching thing until this very moment. Now I get it and know my niche. Thank you Tad!

  • Lishui

    wow. perfect solution to so many things – so much more than the answer to business niching.
    this is the answer to “what is my purpose in life.”

    your stuff just gets better and better :)

  • Kim Tanasichuk

    This is amazing Tad. Really tied to life purpose, and makes complete sense that we express parts of us that we know so intimately through our struggle. And usually sharing what we have learned, is the next stage in our learning!

    Do you suppose there is a continuum linking where we are at with our struggle and what is our niche? Like our niche is determined by how many steps ahead we are in our learning/overcoming? e.g. if you’re at the point where you “got” really big pieces of your struggle, some may get so excited and approach it as if “this is The Way” (a niche for those attracted to this). Vs. someone who’s near 100% overcome and is no longer attached to “A Way” because they’ve seen all sides to their struggle? (a niche where people get the Buddha of that struggle) Does that make sense?

  • thanks you :-)

  • hey kim. i’ve been thinking about that lately. i’m really not sure. but yes. once people do a certain journey that’s one thing. but the big thing is, can they go retrace their steps and come up with a useful map for others. and learn from other people’s maps who’ve done the same journey. i think it’s not so much about prescribing the route YOU took as the route for everyone. but more about using the wounds and struggles we’ve overcome as the doorway into our authentic work in the world and using that motivation to gather as much medicine around it as we can.

  • Kim Tanasichuk

    Very wise words indeed. I think I’m talking to the Buddha of marketing :-P
    What I like about this is looking at our niche and struggles this way, makes us view what we do from many angles. We’ve seen within the struggle. To come up with the map we see the big picture of our struggle. And to share the map, we see beyond ourselves. And then to work with others, we must have the perspective that we go off the map, and perhaps chart a new one.

  • I got it. I really think I got it. Beautiful. Simple. Beautifully simple. Oh my!

  • Donovan

    Wow, sweet post Tad. I like too how this seems to fit with my bigger idea of what the world is…what the world is for. Love. It is maybe the force that moves through it all. I have often thought that we are *all* healers really – in the broadest sense that we are all here to help, not hurt. I have also thought that we are all ‘teachers’ too, in a way, and there is always someone behind us, and someone ahead of us. And this question/view your are offering fits nicely, organically with that I think.

  • so glad you liked it. and yes – always someone in front. always someone behind. i like that.

  • Lorii Abela

    Like this post, Tad. And thanks for sharing it. Definitely , “What have you had to overcome in your life to be where you are today?” is the easiest question to uncover a niche. Thanks for your thoughts and insights.

  • Jeff Haste

    Hi Tad. I have been getting your updates along with Dan Blank’s, who turned me on to yours, and I can’t always read them all right away. You have done a lot with this niche idea and this is the first post I’ve looked at in a while. It struck me as another way of looking at the problem of having a sense of worth or value when thinking about how we might market ourselves and we tend to compare what we do to others that might be in the same field or actually be “competition”. Nobody really wants to think about comparing but we do and it can usually lead to limitations or feelings that we may not be doing enough. The last time I found myself there I turned it around and said OK, I’m not like the other, what I am doing has qualifications and strengths, and my experience makes what I’m doing valuable to others if I consider it from this point of view, and the point of view is what you are talking about.
    When we look back and see how much we have learned and grown, all we have to offer since a time when we began something, it is a lot easier to realize. This helped me get over the bad comparison to the other guy, the comparison that makes me feel like I’m not doing what they are doing to create an image or gain social capital, or community presence, as an example. If I think of my strengths and what I have to offer, what makes my biz unique, then I become progressive and move forward toward the goals I thought I was lacking in.
    Thanks Tad. Keep up the good work. – Jeff