"Ground game" mailbag

Philip Morgan

I once slept 15 feet from some railroad tracks for about a year.

Of course I didn't plan on this.

I was young, had just read James Howard Kunstler, and I was going to live in a loft dammit!

When I returned from a 6-week road trip all over the US and Canada in 2002, I found an honest to goodness warehouse loft I could rent in Nashville. Here's what it looked like with a much younger version of me inside it (film photo panorama scanned and stitched together):


(Here's the 4,869-pixel wide version of this photograph if you're curious: https://pmc-dropshare.s3-us-west-1.amazonaws.com/OldLoftPano-adj-lNeUb5MAfS.jpg)

The place is still there. It's called Big Red Lofts. Back in '02, it was a funky warehouse--barely converted to barely functional habitations--tucked away behind a surplus electronics store, across the street from a strip club and, IIRC, a methadone clinic. These days, the images I see of Big Red Lofts on Google Images make it seem almost upscale.

The loft I rented had no kitchen, but it did have a bathroom. That was a problem I easily solved with a table, camp stove, crock pot, and refrigerator. I know exactly what you're wondering. Yes, I did in fact wash my dishes in the shower.


All of my food prep happened in the makeshift kitchen, but I really did wash dishes in the shower. When you're in your 20's, why not?

Anyway, it took me exactly 3 seconds to say "I'll take it" to the landlord when I first visited the loft to check it out. It was just so cool.

It actually wasn't until I was well asleep on my first night there after moving in that I realized how close it was to the railroad tracks. My bed was butted up against the exterior wall, and I swear the tracks were no more than 15 feet from where I slept that night.

You just can't really appreciate how immensely heavy a diesel locomotive is until one rolls past you at 30 mph. It shakes everything. And you also can't appreciate how loud it is until you've been that close to one. The super thick brick walls of the old warehouse did a little to attenuate the noise, but not much. And since the building was not far from a railroad crossing, the engineers had to blow the horn at about exactly the point when they rolled past Big Red. That first night I woke up with 3 gallons of adrenaline in my system, convinced that the locomotive was headed straight for my bed.

I got used to it, to the point where I routinely slept through locomotives rolling past at all hours of the night.

Maybe this is why I'm so big on evidence and insight when it comes to making the specialization decision. I'd hate for one of my clients to get excited about a specialization and then find out it has some serious problem like that loft had. ??

List member Anthony gave me permission to share his perspective on the "ground game" email from last week:

_True about consistency and the long term view. Don’t expect the seed you planted yesterday to bear fruit today.

That said, I see choosing a market position as a big exciting play: the very breakthrough. For me, that breakthrough has been a long time coming, and I feel I have only just broken through the cloud near the top of the mountain. Suddenly, you have articulated your own pain and theirs so well (techies who can’t sell, but know they have to), people start thinking of you, just because you were willing to break free from the pack of generalists who were trying to play it safe.

So, sometimes it pays to be the motorbike rider zipping through the traffic, rather than the bus driver. You have no idea how much positioning played a role in this transformation (and it’s a transformation within me as much as within my marketing).


P.S. That last sentence about the transformation is, I think, the key. We like to change the marketing as a Thing out there, a tactic to change our website, but it’s interior as much as anything. Almost an identity, even while also being a tactic._

Thanks for sharing that, Anthony! And I agree, there are pivotal moments. I don't think those alone are enough (and I know that's not what Anthony was saying), but it doesn't diminish the importance of those moments.

Hey, I haven't mentioned it very much, but I have written a very good, very small book on how you decide how to specialize. If you're curious how you make this decision for your business, this is the best $29 you could spend: http://specializingwithoutfailure.com/