Lessons in Content Learning from Mark Schaefer’s Book KNOWN

By Kevin Anselmo

“I was not an expert at becoming known when I started the book. I am now. Writing this book awarded me the equivalent of a master’s degree in personal branding! My new expertise can open new doors because I did this hard work.”

These words from Mark Schaefer’s book KNOWN struck a chord with me. There were many applications from his book that correlated nicely to the concept I highlighted of content learning – the process of creating thoughtful content (books, reports, presentations, designs, articles, videos, podcasts or social media posts) with the goal to crystallize our thinking, grow our networks, spark our curiosity and inspire us to innovate.

The aforementioned quote to start this article is a great example of how creating content can crystallize one’s thinking on a topic. Mark shared several other examples in the book of how individuals can create content to learn, like Antonio Centeno, a former Marine Corps member who ultimately built a business around men’s fashion, fuelled by his YouTube videos. Interestingly, he created 200 videos in 200 days. As Mark highlighted in the book, Antonio’s motivation was to learn.

There were numerous tidbits in KNOWN on how content creation can open up an individual’s network. “Interview somebody from your audience for your blog, podcast, or video. Use that interaction as an excuse to build a closer relationship,” he advised in chapter seven.

Mark dedicated many pages to what he describes as finding your sustainable interest: something that you love that will help you achieve your goals. I like how he distinguishes sustainable interest from a passion – an activity one might like to do but doesn’t necessarily support life goals (like a hobby). He shares several tips on how to find your sustainable interest and notes an important caveat: “You may never truly know your place until you’re into this process for a period of time. Your position will adjust and change and tune and sprout and flourish as you acclimate to your new role.”

For me, this last point aligns to the content learning components of sparking our curiosity and inspiring us to innovate. It might not happen instantaneously. I have seen this to be the case in my own content journey, particularly around running three different podcasts.

The first one I started back in 2013 was called FIR on Higher Education and was focused on communications best practices in higher education. Then I launched a show called Learning and Development Stories in 2018, targeted toward learning and development professionals. I was particularly keen to hear how learning and development professionals adopted communications strategies and tactics to foster knowledge sharing and employee engagement in an organization. Then this year I started a show called Informational Interview 2.0; this podcast focused on how career development professionals can help students with their communications skills so they can be more marketable.

All three of these podcast ventures, combined with taking advice from books like KNOWN, have brought me to my current space – or as Mark would say sustainable interest – of exploring this notion of content learning. I wouldn’t have been interested in this idea back in 2013; it was an iterative process.

The concluding chapter in KNOWN is entitled Pivots and Grit.

“Nobody is born an expert, so after defining your sustainable interest, you must devote yourself to the focused, full-hearted, challenge-exceeding practice that leads to mastery,” Mark wrote. “You must zero in on your weaknesses and commit to improve, week after month after year.”

I plan to regularly write and produce podcasts around this concept of content learning. As I do so, it will be imperative for me to heed the above encouragement. I am keeping notes from chapter 10 of Mark’s book accessible on Evernote so I can remind myself of the need to persevere in achieving my own content goals. On that note, join me on this journey by reading my thoughts on content learning.

In addition, I encourage you to read KNOWN if you haven’t already. Be deliberate about content learning in your own way by drawing upon the wisdom in the book. What is your own Master’s Degree you would like to pursue but might not be able to due to life circumstances? You too can follow Mark’s advice and become that expert through your own content journeys.

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