Are You Riding Waves or Creating Them?

It’s easy to follow a template. It’s easy to do what’s already been done.

But was that what you were brought on this earth to do? Play someone else’s game, follow in someone else’s footsteps?

I don’t think so.

When you ride waves, you’re always behind. You’re always trying to catch up with the latest trend, the newest marketing tactic. Today it’s Pinterest, yesterday it was Google Plus.

Last century it was the American Dream. Now it’s the Lifestyle Design Dream.

Whatever tribe you’re trying to serve, whatever market you’re in, it’s inevitable that you’ll encounter trends and crazes that quickly become bandwagons.

The question is, will you attempt to frantically ride these waves, or will you create your own?

On doing what’s been done

Doing what’s already been done is inevitably a much safer path than pioneering your own. But going this route means that you’re always trying to catch up. Because you’re always following, you’re never ahead.

You’re simply trying to implement the latest marketing tactic or trick so you can catch up to what everyone else is doing. At best, you may implement the latest trend slightly earlier than everyone else.

Bcause you’re wave-chasing, you’re always in reactive mode. You’re never thinking strategically, you’re just reactively trying to incorporate the latest trend into your own work.

This type of wave-chasing is not only arduous, but it’s a never ending game. There will inevitably be a new fad, a new flavor of the month. You’ll have to hurry to employ it just a little quicker than everyone else before it becomes outdated.

Trends inevitability fall out of vogue before long. Like any bandwagon that people jump on, it loses its luster and becomes a requirement to not fail.

The lifecycle of marketing trends

  1. Stage one: Someone creates a new, effective tactic. The creator and early implementers reap the lion’s share of the benefits.
  2. Stage two: The trend takes hold and everyone rushes frantically to implement it. This is what wave-chasers do. They experience some benefits, but by this time it’s already becoming outdated.
  3. Stage three: The trend or tactic has lost its effectiveness. Now utilizing it is simply a requirement to not fail.

As you can probably tell, this is a losing battle. Not only are you always in monkey-mode (trying to copy what the gurus are doing), it’s also exhausting.

So how do we stop wave-chasing?

If you want to create something truly great, if you want to be number one in the race, you absolutely must play your own game.

Don’t try to be the next Steve Jobs or the next Maynard Keenan. Be the next you. Explore the uncharted stretches of your own path — the one that’s waiting to be released inside you. The one that’s dark, expansive and blissfully terrifying (yes, bliss and fear can actually coexist).

Stop trying to chase waves. Stop listening to the experts. Stop reacting to the latest and greatest.

Start creating your own game. Tear everything down and build your own empire from the ground up. On your terms.

It will be perhaps the hardest work of your life. But it will by far be the most rewarding.


Want to learn more about creating waves and creating a path you never want to stop walking? Join me on this gratis webinar on opting out of the template and creating work you never want to escape from.

Click here to reserve your seat.

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Comment & Add Your Voice

ethanwaldman April 10, 2012 at 8:42 am

This philosophy is at the core of what I do. It IS the hardest work of my life, but it is the only work that makes me really feel like I’ve accomplished something at the end of the day. Thank you for sharing this. 


JonathanMead May 5, 2012 at 11:15 am

 @ethanwaldman You’re welcome Ethan, you’re doing great things.

GetIntoEnglish April 10, 2012 at 10:17 am

This is totally acceptable and encouraging advice.
Then when you are stuck with a product, service or blog no one wants to buy or read, the same people that say ‘do it your way’ will then want to sell you products to solve your problem eg not enough sales or engagement.
Yes, be who you want to be, but today there are also some generally-accepted ways of engaging with people and encouraging sales and interaction. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be seeing the floating share bar, the adverts in the side bar, the Twitter count for social proof, and so on on this very site.
So I DO agree with what you’re saying. But for people who aren’t doing as well as you seem to be, it is quite hard to simply throw out the wisdom of others and simply do it fully on your own and end up at the back of a one-way street.
Would be curious to hear your response, and from others…
Perhaps I can end by saying even when you’re trying to get on top of what you’re trying to do, don’t lose your voice.


JonathanMead April 10, 2012 at 11:19 am

 @GetIntoEnglish You’re absolutely right on that. There’s a fine line between doing what works, and becoming just another ripoff of everyone else. I personally don’t espouse completely shunning what works, what’s been proven, and tested. I think that business models should generally be copied and mimicked. But content, ideas, creating your own brand, voice, etc, that’s where copying is incredibly dangerous.

livingauthentically April 10, 2012 at 5:38 pm

This is going to sound picky and petty (probably because it is).
“If you want to create something truly great, if you want to be number one in the race, you absolutely must play your own game.”
If you play your own game there is no race.  And this gets tricky – how do you keep score when you aren’t playing the game?  It can mean being confused and trying out stuff as you find your own way.


ethanwaldman April 11, 2012 at 4:03 am

 @livingauthentically Interesting point. I think that you can play your own game but it has to be based on common rules and practices. If no one else understands how to play, then you’ll be all alone.

Israel_Garcia April 11, 2012 at 5:08 pm

As I say, Hack the rules. If the game is designed for you to lose, don’t play this game, create a game outside the game where you win. Great job Jonathan.


JonathanMead May 5, 2012 at 11:16 am

 @Israel_Garcia Thanks dude. 

Nathan Pennington April 16, 2012 at 8:07 pm

I loved this post. Thanks Jonathan. I feel like I am following someone else’s path and not my own in my own career path. The thought of giving up my full time job to follow my own passion (coaching distance runners an fitness-minded people) is daunting wondering if I will pull in the funds to support my family but is still a consideration, appreciate the post.


antistatusquo April 20, 2012 at 1:46 pm

 @Nathan Pennington Know exactly what you mean in regards to leaving the comfort of a steady to pay check in exchange for being your own boss.
Maybe ease your way into your coaching passion until you are making enough to quit your regular job.

nochnoch April 18, 2012 at 1:41 am

i agree – and creating waves is hard. many might not believe in you at the beginning. we need to persevere to create big waves instead of ripples despite what others say. as long as we believe it’s true and it’s right
Noch Noch


Peter Hall April 18, 2012 at 8:30 am

Doing something new or different is the essence of begin creative for me. There’s a lot that’s not creative out there – copy-cat products and gurus telling us to do what they’ve done (some even have blogs!). Finding our own way takes courage particularly in being honest about who we are. As you say “be the next you”.


JonathanMead May 5, 2012 at 11:15 am

 @Peter Hall “Being who you are is the adventure of a life time” Joseph Campbell :)

ZenHarvests April 18, 2012 at 11:23 am

There is a major amount of trust needed to do this. You have to live with confusion, fear, and not being sure – sometimes for a really long time. If you don’t trust that you have so much more to offer the world, then it’s next to impossible to truly become your full self.


JonathanMead May 5, 2012 at 11:11 am

 @ZenHarvests Thanks for adding that man, I agree with you.

Hang in There April 18, 2012 at 1:05 pm

This is so enlightening! I’m glad you shared this because I was just thinking the same thing not to long ago. We need to start being confident enough to blaze are own trails, otherwise we will be stuck with the same old same old.


JonathanMead May 5, 2012 at 11:10 am

 @Hang in There It took me a long time to really embrace this, but it’s definitely worth it.

antistatusquo April 20, 2012 at 1:51 pm

Thanks for this post. I was nodding in agreement as I was scrolling down and was hoping there would be some more advice on creating your own wave, until I reached the bottom. 
It has also been great to read all of the other comments to the article, especially ‘GetIntoEnglish’s’ post. I’ve just recently found this site and very happy thus far that I have. 


JonathanMead May 5, 2012 at 11:10 am

 @antistatusquo That’s awesome. Thanks for chiming in.

izmaelarkin April 26, 2012 at 9:19 pm

I think one of the challenges that many people face is first identifying that they are riding other people’s waves. A few years ago, I was a teacher and I thought I was doing what i wanted with my life. I had plans to teach for a little then become a principal. After a few years through a series of events I discovered that I actually was riding someone elses wave. But this took me a whie to realize this.
I think in many cases people have no idea that they are riding anothers wave. It seems to be a rather intense process. First someone must realize they are riding another wave. Next, they must create a new wave. Then they have to have the guts to follow it. Finally, they got to stick with it.
I hope this does not appear that I am disagreeing with you. As I completely agree with everything you said. But to get to a place in ones life where they are capable of creating a new wave can be very complex.
What do you think?


JonathanMead May 5, 2012 at 11:09 am

 @izmaelarkin I think you’re right. It takes a certain level of consciousness to realize in the first place that you are riding waves, not creating them.

PureSignal April 27, 2012 at 7:27 am

“Bcause you’re wave-chasing, you’re always in reactive mode. You’re never thinking strategically, you’re just reactively trying to incorporate the latest trend into your own work.
This type of wave-chasing is not only arduous, but it’s a never ending game.”
For a long time, I’ve felt like it’s too late to reap the “lion’s share of the benefits” after hearing about some cool new tactic.
More recently, I’ve started to realize that rather than waste time chasing new things, our best options are:
1) Be ahead of the trends (by creating waves), and/or…
2) Focus on the time-tested fundamentals
Whether you’re building a web-based business, growing a consulting business, or trying to win a gold medal in the olympics, you will constantly hear about (and be distracted by) the latest and greatest tactics.
In the end, I find an 80/20 rule of sorts works well here:
80% Fundamentals
20% Creating Waves
This allows me to keep myself grounded, focused, and on the path I’ve envisioned, while still taking some time to be more creative and come up with new ideas.
It’s amazing how the two mindsets overlap, but this proportion tends to work really well.
Thanks for the insightful post!


JonathanMead May 5, 2012 at 11:08 am

 @PureSignal That’s a really great way to apply the 80/20 rule. Great suggestion Kyle.

Jamie Alexander August 20, 2012 at 11:41 am

That’s a well written article. Don’t see much of those going around.

Yeah, I agree and I’m trying to create my own waves. It’s not hard when there’s only one other blog in my niche and it’s completely different lol


Bruno Coelho August 20, 2012 at 4:22 pm


I loved the waves concept.

This very weekend I went to my favorite meditation spot: the beach. I knelt at the beach shore as wave after wave came to me… Looking side to side I noticed how the waves broke some huge rocks that were placed there to cut some strength from the sea. The sea didn’t do this in one day. It took wave, after wave, after wave to do break all the tons of rock that were placed there.

That’s a great lesson to me as I blaze my path to become ALL that I can be. I must keep my EGO and ambition in check so I don’t try to do this overnight. Like Harvey Mackay says: “It takes years to become an overnight success”.

So, thank you for giving me another concept to think about and for leading this awesome community of people that won’t settle for anything less that they’re meant to be!

To OUR Success!!!
Bruno Coelho


Amy Scott October 19, 2012 at 1:57 pm

Awesome post, Jonathan. I was nodding along as I was reading and thinking, Yes! This is why I never like using swipe copy and templates created by the “experts.” It doesn’t feel like me and I’d much rather create something new. There’s certainly a lot to be learned from the experts, but at some point you need to stop listening to everyone else and listen to yourself.

On another point, in terms of riding the waves of trends, this is exactly how I think about clothes, too. :) I’d rather wear things that are totally me and comfortable instead of following the trends and having to worry about whether I’m in or out of style. Being yourself never goes out of style.


Destiny Allison March 20, 2013 at 8:19 am

Thanks Johnathan. You’re dead on with this post. I think many are terrified of acting on their own passion, so they copy and sprinkle their voice on top. The trick is knowing how to use the tools available without compromising yourself. In reality, passion sells. Managing passion with vision via the use of tools is what defines the game. We’re all playing a version of it and we flock to those confident enough to hold their own. It’s a long road, bumpy and rough, but the view is worth everything. If you’re terrified, you’re probably heading in the right direction. Worst that can happen is you make a mistake. Then you learn from it and move on.


Kris March 20, 2013 at 8:22 am

First, I want to thank you for writing this because it is exactly what I needed to read. When you spend all your time trying to replicate someone else’s plan or following someone else’s path, you really aren’t able to learn from trial and error. Sure, it’s nice to have someone to use as a role model but you shouldn’t try to do what they have done step for step. Regardless of what anyone says, I don’t believe there is any exact “true method for success”. Failure itself is a major part of success in that we need to learn from our mistakes, recalculate our plan, and try again. There’s nothing wrong with following some of the trends some of the time but that doesn’t mean you have to be a slave to any of them. Look at what other people have done to succeed, choose a few of their things (if they work for you) to incorporate into your own plan, and then build your own success on your own terms. It’s taken me a long time to realize that I don’t have to be like anyone else or do things “by the book”. Sure, it might be an easier ride but probably not nearly as interesting.


GetIntoEnglish April 11, 2012 at 3:05 pm

 @JonathanMead thanks for your reply..I think there are some things which are becoming standard, and that this is a good starting point for many, though of course good luck to that business which does things completely differently and re-invents the way things are done. I def agree that within whatever framework you use, being an original voice is a positive thing, for not just business reasons.


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