Why You Need More Cowbell


Have you seen the More Cowbell sketch from Saturday Night Live?  It’s more than just funny.  Believe it or not, it’s a powerful metaphor for a successful work life.  And it provides insight into the kind of people you need on your team, and what makes an effective team.

Everyone has at least one cowbell — it’s your unique, profitable talent people pay you for or your company’s unique offering.  It’s something people have a fever for.  When you discover it and give those people a ton of it, you gain success and happiness for both yourself and others.  It’s a win-win.

A cowbell is simultaneously something you love doing and something other people really want as well (although, as we’ll see, you still will have detractors and critics).  A cowbell creates joy for you and other people.  It makes them yell for more.  They can’t get enough.

Degrees of Importance of Your Cowbell in Your Life

We’ve discovered that if something comes easily, we tend to devalue it.  Maybe you do this too.  For Brian, writing a book wasn’t so hard, so he wondered, why do people think it’s such a big deal?  Because writing a book is a big deal for most people!  But if it’s not that hard, is it work?  If it’s not hard to do, should I get paid a lot for it?

Your talents can create a blind spot.  And because you devalue it, you might undercharge for it.  Imagine how ridiculous it would be for Kobe Bryant or Michael Jordan or LeBron James to say, “Basketball is easy for me, so you don’t have to pay me much for it.”  Prediculous! (Prediculous means so ridiculous it goes back in time and kills ridiculousness’s Dad so that ridiculousness is never even born.)

The goal is to discover a talent and hone it and then get paid really freaking well for it.

How To Increase Your Sense of Your Own Value

Increasing your value takes time.  Brian can now charge up to $250 an hour and feel like he’s worth it.  But if he were to say $300 he’d feel like he was getting away with something.  Now, to someone who makes $20 an hour, this probably sounds stupid, arrogant, humblebrag or whatever.  But it used to be he could only say he was worth $150 an hour.  What changed?  He got used to it and wanted more?  No, in part it was hearing what other people charged and asking himself if he was as valuable as they were.

Brian also learned from a couple of PR pros that you quote a high hourly rate to discourage hourly work; you want projects or monthly retainers instead.  But this is likely a matter of preference.  Projects and retainers can become inefficient and your hourly wage can drop quickly.  On the other hand, if someone’s paying Brian $200 to $250 an hour just to be on the phone giving his experience, opinion, or tips, and he didn’t have to prep or follow up, that’s really easy work.  Like to talk?  Get some expertise and credibility, market yourself, and get paid to do it.  Consulting is great work when you can get it.

The other things that cause Brian’s sense of value to go up are gaining more experience, getting better at what he does, being able to accomplish more in less time, and the fact that most people can’t get paid fees like that 40 hours a week.  While $20 per hour might be $40,000 a year, $250 per hour is usually not $500,000 a year.  More likely, it’s $250,000.

Speaking of which, we Americans are incredibly secretive about how much we make.  People are more willing to tell you their weight or age than how much money they make!  Why is that?  Are we embarrassed?  Afraid of being robbed?

We think that if people were more open about money, it would help the people who are undervaluing themselves.  It might even curb the arrogance of those who are overvaluing themselves.  Share what you make with your peers- the info and feedback you get will help you.

By the way, if by the time you talk to Brian his hourly rate has gone up, don’t hate him.  Be jealous of his cowbell.  Very jealous.  This whole thing makes Brian sound really snobby, which he’s not.  In fact, strange people like Charlie Poznek often tell Brian he isn’t charging enough for his infoproducts.  And of course, when Charlie speaks, you’d better listen, right?

Get Your Free Digital Copy Of The Cowbell Principle


This post is an excerpt adapted by Brian Carter from the forthcoming book The Cowbell Principle: Career Advice On How To Get Your Dream Job And Make More Money, by Brian Carter and Garrison Wynn.  Brian and Garrison will be giving away a limited number of digital copies at launch time.  To get notified when they’re available, sign up at http://thecowbellprinciple.com/getnotified


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