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The Difference Between Thought Leaders and Philosophers

There’s plenty of philosophers out there. Most of them have “day jobs.” It’s hard to make money just by thinking deep thoughts, no matter how visionary or inspired you are. Philosophy is a great and noble calling, but if you’d like to make a living from your ideas, you’ve got to have a business plan. If you don’t have a plan to create value from your ideas, you’re a not a thought leader.

One of our clients was a clinical psychologist working with kids who were victims of bullying. Occasionally, he’d take a day off from therapeutic appointments, and travel to local schools to give talks and presentations to the students, trying to raise awareness and stop bullying before it happened. It sounded like a great idea, but frankly, the schools didn’t have the money to pay him. No matter how great the tools he was offering, the framework he’d built to help kids deal with bullying and harassment, the education system just didn’t have the money. He told us that if he took 1/2 day to drive to the schools, give talks, and then drive back, that was time he could have spent seeing three or four patients and being paid his hourly rate for each one. It was simply more financially stable for him to work with individual kids who had already been harassed than to spend his time trying to solve the fundamental problem in the school’s environment.

Our client had an authentic voice, a sharp focus, useful and relevant ideas – but simply put, he didn’t have market viability for going to the schools, because the education system just didn’t have the money his ideas were worth. Everybody agreed that his ideas were relevant. They just didn’t know how to pay him anything that matches what he made per hour when he worked with kids one on one. It’s a tough thing to accept.

Finding market viability means finding a way to do what you love, and also be paid appropriately for the value of your ideas. The ability to take your ideas, create content, and shape products that help others solve their toughest problems is at the heart of thought leadership – and so is market viability.

How you formulate your business strategy is directly related to finding an audience for your ideas – one that can support your thought leadership, raise its visibility, and utilize your solutions. By doing that, you take a step out of the passive “philosopher” category, and become a genuine thought leader with the drive, ability, and valued products capable of making the world a better place.

Bill Sherman works with thought leaders to launch big ideas within well-known brands. He is the COO of Thought Leadership Leverage. Visit Bill on Twitter

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