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PP 161: The Key to Standing Out – 3 Ingredients that Make Up Your Secret Sauce

Perspective Podcast Episode 161 Artwork by Scotty Russell | Perspective Collective

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The Secret Sauce Blender | Making the Perfect Personal Pan Pizza

Imagine you’re baking a pizza…of course, what a Scotty thing to say, right?

Except in this scenario, the same crust, cheese, and toppings are provided to you and everyone else.

What’s going to make your pizza truly stand out from the noise is the sauce you make for the pizza.

What’s the secret to making the secret sauce that’ll keep people craving for  yours while others seem to get lost in the shuffle?

It’s a personalized dash, smidgen, and a pinch of ingredients that makes you, YOUnique.

You combine all these ingredients up in a blender…or maybe a food processor…and voilà! Here’s your secret sauce that’ll make your pizza shine.

Anyone can try to mimic the pizza you bake, but no one can rip your secret sauce!

In our creative world, we pretty much all have access to similar tools, mediums, and distribution channels to get our work out there. However, the way we rise above the noise is how we show up and pour ourselves into our work.

This isn’t a new concept as people have been talking about this for a long time now. Someone like Lisa Congdon calls this your Artistic Voice, thought others may call it something else.

Finding your secret sauce is my cheesy spin on what I call your Sweet Spot in your creative grind.

Today, I want to do a little overview of the three main ingredients that I feel make up your truly YOUnique secret sauce (I’m sure this will evolve over time).

There are action steps baked within each segment with an intended goal. They’ll help you understand how your own ingredients will make your secret sauce, and how you can leverage them within your personal brand and the work you show.

Breaking Down the Ingredients for Your Secret Sauce

When I jump on coaching calls, I guide each student through the process of finding their secret sauce.

Knowing your secret sauce brings clarity, confidence, conviction, and purpose when pursuing your creative grind.

It’s easier said than done, but that’s the beauty of the messy, ever-evolving creative process: you have to dig deep to know which ingredients you even have in your personal pantry.

Now that we’ve added a little context to it, let’s start breaking down the 3 main types of ingredients you’re baking with.

1. Experiences & Stories

I mention this often, but I’ve learned from first-hand experience that your story is your most powerful asset.

I shared my backstory with Diane Gibbs back in 2015 when I was just getting started with my blog that no one read.

She ran with it and not only provided me with my first podcast interview on her Design Recharge Show, but she also landed me my first speaking gig at AIGA Mobile Flourish Conference in Alabama.

It totally caught me off guard and jump-started my early side hustle days.

For the longest time, I felt I didn’t have anything to share or that anyone would care. But when I shared my story of being bullied, dealing with depression, anxiety, comparison, imposter syndrome, etc., it let other people know they weren’t alone.

It became a permission slip for them to share their stories. It connected us because they saw something similar in themselves even if the plot and details weren’t the same.

The shit you’ve been through is real. You went through it for a reason, and the adversity you overcame could be a powerful example to someone else so they triumph through the same shit storm.

No one can replicate your story. In my opinion, it’s THE KEY INGREDIENT in your secret sauce.

Action Step
It takes some time, but start jotting down your story and past experiences that have helped mold you into the person you’ve become today.

The better you can tell it, the better it can connect with someone.

You may not think people will care, but trust me, someone out there needs to hear it.

2. Skills & Strengths

There are certain things you’re naturally good at that seem to be difficult for others (how many times have you heard, “I couldn’t even draw a stick figure”?).

There are skills you’ve obtained by spending hours on end studying, researching, and practicing (10,000 hours by Malcom Glidewell anyone?).

There are things you had to learn, due to the circumstances you grew up, in order to thrive or (let alone) survive.

All of these skills and strengths become art-illery in your arsenal to equip you for your creative grind.

When you combine these skills with your story and the following ingredients, you’re baking up a killer pizza that’s sure to satisfy a gaggle of hungry creatives.

Action Step
Start a list of any type of skills or strengths you developed over the years. (e.g., painting, speaking, strange fact retainment, storytelling, metaphors, rapping, wood widdling, pet whispering, etc.)

Now start seeing if there is any potential overlap with your skills that could develop something unique and different when put together. (e.g., Lindsey Stirling playing the violin while dancing)

3. Core Identity: Interests/Passions, Beliefs, Values

There’s a lot of unique ingredients within this that can make this exercise complex and a bit confusing (but fun as well when you find your mojo).

Work with too many ingredients, and they begin fighting each other when you bake and serve your personal pan pizza to the world.

However, when you’re able to narrow down these ingredients to a select handful of “buckets,” it’ll make the sauce you bring to the table (social media, website, keynotes, etc.) more digestible, palatable, and easier for one to sink their teeth into.

I originally heard of this concept from Jenna Kutcher. She talks about defining your buckets of interests (up to 5) that you can navigate through as well as overlap.

A lot of my creative friends do this: more specifically Liz Gray, Dina Rodriguez, and Zulfa of The Cosmic Feminist.

By defining your buckets, you’re essentially narrowing your focus (niching down) into what you want to be known for.

You’re sending a beacon to potential fans and clients that this is either for you or not. As Seth Godin says in This is Marketing, you and your work aren’t for everyone—and that’s a good thing!

I like to imagine this: we’re products on an end cap in a highly trafficked store.

Our job is to design and define our label to the world, which sets expectations (we don’t want to make people guess if our product is for them or not).

We can narrow down our buckets of interests into the following categories. We’d ideally pick 1 to 5 to add to our secret sauce.

I feel something you’re interested in could also be something you’re passionate about, but they could also be separate.

Interests could be some type of person, place, or thing (a noun for you smart folks out there) that piques your curiosity, fascinates you, you want to learn more about, etc. (e.g., folklore, history of alchemy, astrology, adult coloring books, sudoku, etc.)

Your current or future interests could convert into a passion that plays a key role in your secret sauce.

Pinpointing a passion should be pretty simple by answering a few questions:

What lights you up to the point where you lost track of time doing it?
What keeps you up at night because it injects your mind with a dose of joy and excitement?
What do you love doing that you can’t help but talk about it?
If you had spare time, what’s the one thing you’d no doubt be doing?

You have to believe in something. Placing your faith, trust, or confidence in something sets the foundation for how you show up each day.

It’s something that you accept to be true and that influences your values and your morals. (e.g., religion, pro/anti-vaccines, pro/anti-abortion, etc.)

Values are rules, standards, and principles that influence our behavior and character—they often stem from the belief systems.

Many brands, businesses, and people have their core values that set the tone for how they show up and treat other people (inclusivity, hard work, equality, honesty, etc.).

Action Step
Take some time to jot down some answers in each of these categories. Locate areas of overlap or how some stem from others. Select 1–5 traits within these buckets that you feel make up the Core Identity ingredient you want to showcase in your secret sauce.

My Personal Core Ingredient Example
Here are the buckets I play in with my brand (some overlap and can be utilized as a strength/skill):

Interests: Pizza and Outer Space (honorable mentions would be black ink tattoos, sports, fitness, cats, coffee, horror movies, and Game of Thrones)

Passions: Coaching (empowering/educating creatives) and Drawing

Values: Inclusivity and Positivity

If you were to read my Instagram bio or scroll through my feed, my Core Identity buckets would be pretty evident.

If you visited Liz Gray’s, Dina Rodriguez, or Zulfa’s accounts, you’d easily be able to decipher the label they share with the world and what to expect when following them.

A Taste Test: Putting it All Together

First off, creating an award-winning secret sauce is impossible to master overnight (just look at Colonel Sanders of KFC and how long it took for his finger-lickin’ chicken to pop off).

Finding your secret sauce takes time (I’m over 5.5 years into my side hustle, and I feel I’m just now finding my secret formula…for this season).

Perfecting your secret sauce is an endless process. You’re constantly growing and evolving with new life experiences that’ll shape your Core Identity ingredient.

It’s hard to thrive in your creative grind when you’re trying to replicate someone else’s secret sauce.

Have some fun with the process and follow the action steps today to start developing your own award-winning secret sauce.

Keep baking up pizzas to share with the world and tweak your ingredients over time.

The more you’re vibing to the personal pan pizza you’re baking up, the right people will too.


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