Your Biggest Fan

One of the most surprising things I’ve learnt from writing on the Internet is that your biggest fan is likely to be someone you don’t know. 

A fan is someone who’s excited by your work; a true fan is someone who will buy anything you produce. This is quite different from a supporter, who stays around for you. Both of them may provide the resources and encouragement you need to keep going, but the distinction between the two is crucial. In fact, it’s why a complete stranger can be your biggest fan. 

Think about when something you’ve said has resonated strongly with someone else or when something someone has said has resonated with you. My guess is that in these instances, you wouldn’t have been very familiar with that person. Because resonance depends heavily on insight, and insight requires a degree of novelty, you’re unlikely to hear this from someone close to you. After all, being close to someone means that you’d have been exposed to their ideas or share a particular set of beliefs alongside them. 

For example, imagine a software engineer explaining that computers can only process information in bits. His colleagues at Facebook or Google are not going to find this interesting because it’s something they’ve learned in CS101, but someone who is new to the world of computers is going to be fascinated by this (as my friend was last week). What’s obvious to you can be amazing to others, especially if these others are people whom you have absolutely no familiarity with. 

This means that you shouldn’t let the opinion of your peers or friends stop you from doing something. When I first started writing a blog (this current one!) about personal development, I was worried that my friends would find what I wrote trite, or worse, ridiculous. But the comments and emails from the readers proved that there was at least someone who liked what I wrote, even if it wasn’t good writing. They weren’t being encouraging for the sake of it; they were excited and genuinely found value in what I wrote. At the very least, this means that I helped them discover a particular idea that they wouldn’t have until a later time, and that I haven’t just wasted time writing at all. 

Perhaps the most important realisation is that this lesson is not just applicable to writing, but to so many other endeavours as well. If you’re holding back from doing something because of what your friends think, just remember that in all probability you haven’t met your biggest fan yet. And that fan is all you need to delight.