Leadership Tactic #77: You Are Your Own Gatekeeper

Yesterday I read a brilliant post from blogger Nathan Bransford about how there are no more gatekeepers, only influencers. Then I read perhaps an even more brilliant post from comedian and actor Patton Oswalt about how there are no more gatekeepers and that anyone who thinks they’re a gatekeeper needs to rethink their strategy.

Who are were the gatekeepers? Retailers. Publishing companies. Movie studies. Television networks. Record labels. Anything and anyone who you had to go through to live your dream.

Now, gatekeepers aren’t evil. They may seem evil when they’re rejecting your book or your movie idea or your band, but they’re not. In fact, they’ve served a very useful purpose: They are the filters that weed out all the crap and feed us the good stuff. At least, that’s their intent. To a certain extent, they spoiled us, because now there is a ridiculous amount of crap available to us. Fortunately we have algorithms and the wisdom of crowds to help with that.

The only gatekeeper left is YOU. That may seem like a good thing–it is–but it’s also a lot of pressure. Now there is literally nothing holding you back from living your dream except yourself. You have no excuse.

What’s your dream and how are there no more gatekeepers for it? See below for some options.

Publishing Your Novel: Sure, having a publisher helps. I mean, I co-founded a fiction publishing company–I should know. But you no longer need a publisher to publish your book, nor do you need one to get rich and famous. All you need is an Amazon account (and a Lulu account if you want to offer print-on-demand paperbacks). Now, some people confuse self-publishing with instant publishing, hence the huge amount of unreadable and unread ebooks out there. But some people, like a friend of mine named Amy Miles, are self-publishing the right way, to incredible success.

Getting Your Dream Job: Stop waiting for someone to magically offer you your dream job and create it for yourself. In the meantime, keep your day job. Or get married and make your dream job a team effort instead of a solo one. A friend of mine, Jen Chen Tran, has had the itch to be a literary agent for quite some time. She’s worked for publishing companies and interned at a literary agency, and then one day she realized that there was nothing stopping her from starting her own agency. So she did. Stop letting someone else decide when you get to have your dream job and create it for yourself.

Going on Your Dream Vacation: We all have places in the world we want to visit. Exotic locations, beautiful landmarks, ancient cities. What’s holding us back from checking those locations off our buckets lists? Money, right? Money is the gatekeeper. Your salary is the gatekeeper. But you control how you spend that salary. Starting today, open a savings account with ING and set it to withdraw $30/month from your regular checking account. That’s $1/day. That’s nothing. Call it your “travel account.” Then forget about it. One day you’ll look into that account to discover that you have enough to go on that dream vacation. This works for anything for which money is the gatekeeper. Dream car. Dream house. Dream wedding. Set up automatic withdrawals and perhaps change your everyday spending habits just a little so that you don’t notice the difference.

Start a Movement: It’s never been easier to start a movement. If there is a cause or a way to improve the world that you truly believe in, you no longer need permission from someone to do it. Change.org and meetup.com changed all that. Just ask Emma, who started her laughter yoga group in St. Louis 4 months ago. If you think you can have a positive impact on the world, it has never been easier to find other people who will help you.

Find Your Soul Mate: Back in the day, the gatekeepers for this were your parents and your town. Now you can log onto a free account on OkCupid and literally search the entire world for your soul mate. Sure, I don’t condone long-distance relationships, but if you haven’t found what you’re looking for in a partner, there is nothing getting in the way of that search except yourself.

Releasing Your Album: It has never been easier to share your music with the world. You can make an mp3 within minutes and get it onto YouTube or iTunes or smaller sites like thesixtyone. If you believe you have music that’s worth listening to, let’s hear it.

Viticulture (my game) playtesting

Becoming an Actor or Comedian: YouTube, man, YouTube. If this is your dream, read the Patton Oswalt post I mentioned at the beginning of this blog. If you are funny, don’t wait for America’s Got Talent to discover you. Record some standup and put it on YouTube. It might suck. If it does, write and record some more. This is key–not only is there no longer a gatekeeper for you to perform for people, but there’s no longer a gatekeeper to get in your way when you’re honing your craft. There is no bouncer on YouTube (unless you try to get naked). Keep plugging away until people decide your work is worth sharing.

Writing a Blog: This should be a no-brainer by now, but I still hear so many people say, “I should write a blog someday.” If you’ve ever said that, do this: Go to WordPress.com and start a blog. It’ll take 15 seconds. Keep it private at first. Write for you and no one else. Be as open and honest and personal as possible. Then, after a week or two, make your blog public. Then you’re a blogger, my friend.

Selling Your Craft: Do you make beautiful, useful things? Start selling them. There is no one at Etsy or Shopify deciding what you can or cannot sell. You are your only gatekeeper.

Publishing Your Board Game: Sometimes it takes a lot of money to start something. With the board game I’m producing, the minimum print run for the game to exist is 1500 copies of the game. That’s a lot of copies, and a lot of money up front. Fortunately, Kickstarter exists. I can pre-sell the game at a variety of reward levels to raise the money for that original order. There is no up-front cost to Kickstarter. Anyone can start a project there. If you have a passion project that requires a lump sum of money up front, Kickstarter is a no-brainer. If you need help with your campaign, wait for me to run mine (August 25-October 6) and then we’ll talk. I have a feeling I’ll have a lot of advice to share at that point.

The only gatekeeper remaining is YOU. You get to choose to accomplish your goals and dreams, not some executive in a corner office. So what are you waiting for? (That’s not a rhetorical question. Tell me in the comments what you’re waiting for.)

Also, keep an eye on the influencers and filterers of the world. They are starting to matter a lot more than the gatekeepers of the past.

8 thoughts on “Leadership Tactic #77: You Are Your Own Gatekeeper”

  1. I agree to a point but as you imply, you have to be prepared. The whole Twilight fever is a perfect example. Timing is key. Things happen in cycles in the biz. I am the first to admit that I would never have predicted vampires coming back the way they did. And, gatekeepers may also be influencers. They aren’t exclusive. If someone says, “doing this will help,” it wouldn’t hurt to listen. Then make a decision.

    Reply
  2. Thanks Jamey 🙂 I just started a second laughter club, so I’m going strong at 2 per week and I led a mini session for 300 people during a Pecha Kucha night! As a friend of mine said recently, a great thing about St. Louis is that if you want to be something, you can almost literally say you are that thing and you are.

    There may be some gatekeepers left here and there but I think the fear of them is rightfully disappearing. Carpe diem!

    Reply
  3. You are so right, Jamey. I am a firm believer that the only one stopping you from your dream is YOU. So what if 300 agents turn you do. Go back, improve your writing, and try again. And again. If you give up, it’s on no one but yourself.
    Great blog post! Thanks for adding me 🙂

    Reply
  4. Jamey, I really enjoyed this post and how positive it was. Thank you also for mentioning me and my literary agency. It did take courage to make the leap but I also realized that I felt comfortable enough with my background and experiences in publishing to make such a leap. Also, a nice agent told me that there’s really no school to learn how to be agent, it comes by experience.

    I came across an interesting forum post on Nathan Bransford’s blog about new versus more experienced agents. Since I’m a new agent I’m very eager to build my client list but that doesn’t mean I’ll just take any writer that comes along. I also realize that the client chooses to work with me also, it’s a two-way street and I think having that respect as the foundation for the agent-writer relationship, or any relationship really, is so important.

    Things are changing in the publishing industry but maybe not fast enough for the big six where the majority 90% authors are represented by an agent. Because of the sheer volume of requests some of the big six publishers and imprints get, they just cannot, out of pragmatism, accept un-agented queries. But an agent is so much more than a gatekeeper hopefully, she should be a sounding board, she should know the market well enough so you, the writer, can focus on writing. An agent’s ultimate goal is to sell the manuscript but there is a lot more to the relationship, or at leaset I believe there should be, than that. Just my two cents!

    Reply
  5. Jamey, I really enjoyed this post and how positive it was. Thank you also for mentioning me and my literary agency. It did take courage to make the leap but I also realized that I felt comfortable enough with my background and experiences in publishing to make such a leap. Also, a nice agent told me that there’s really no school to learn how to be agent, it comes by experience.

    I came across an interesting forum post on Nathan Bransford’s blog about new versus more experienced agents. Since I’m a new agent I’m very eager to build my client list but that doesn’t mean I’ll just take any writer that comes along. I also realize that the client chooses to work with me also, it’s a two-way street and I think having that respect as the foundation for the agent-writer relationship, or any relationship really, is so important.

    Things are changing in the publishing industry but maybe not fast enough for the big six, where the majority 90% authors are represented by an agent. Because of the sheer volume of requests some of the big six publishers and imprints get, they just cannot, out of pragmatism, accept un-agented queries. But an agent is and should be so much more than a gatekeeper; she should be a sounding board, she should know the market well enough so you, the writer, can focus on writing, she should help you build a career as a writer. An agent’s ultimate goal is to sell the manuscript but there is a lot more to the relationship, or at least I believe there should be, than that. Just my two cents!

    Reply
    • Jen,

      It is refreshing to hear your take on the literary agent standpoint. I wholeheartedly agree that even though you may be new to the industry that you don’t want to take just any author. Even authors with great potential need time to grow into their skin and discover their own voice.

      Congrats on starting this new endeavor. Best of luck 🙂

      Reply

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