The word “niche” most literally means a shallow recess. Specifically and historically, a niche is one of those little tiny concave sections in a wall that functions to display something such as a statue or a relic.
I’m not talking about finding your own little shallow recess, at least not literally. A niche as commonly used in modern vernacular refers to a specific area of interest, function, vocation, and passion.
Whether you are talking about knowledge, blogging, running, or hobbies, there tends to be a polarization in regards to whether or not you should carve yourself out a niche. On one side, many argue for universal applicability, general knowledge, and a sort of Renaissance-man approach; on the other hand, there’s the specificity, unique experience, and specialized knowledge that comes with finding and carving out a niche. Strong arguments can and should be made by both, and, of course, we don’t want to blindly limit ourselves from any opportunities.
A niche, however, offers us to focus on a passion, develop specific skills, and become, in a way, experts on a topic. While in theory I am a proponent of the Renaissance-man approach (you should see my bookshelves), we can really only focus in-depth on a few things at once. As I strive to learn more about running, recipe development, business, and hiking, my brain cannot contain the information it once possessed on specific foci (um, like half of the things I learned in graduate school).
If you peek a bit around the website, you’ll notice that I did a bit of re-branding yesterday. The more time I spend on this blog, the more experience I gain in running, and the more I mature, my niches become distinctly more apparent: distance running, hiking, healthy recipes, and athlete development/coaching. As I dug deep into these niches, I became more and more fascinated by them, until I changed careers at the age of 24 (um, if you could even call my brief stint in academia a career) to pursue them in full, particularly through the medium of this little blog.
My blog is not here for me to write about anything that crosses my mind (trust me, if it were, one day you would be reading about Halloween costumes for puggles, the next day it would be about transcendentalist poetry); rather, my blog functions as an arena in which I can delve into those niches and seek to share what I learn for the benefit of others.
How can you find your niche? Here are four suggestions for you can find your niche and pursue your passion:
Note on What You Spend Your Time and Money
In graduate school, I would toss aside my Latin dictionaries and thick historical texts each time a Runner’s World arrived in the mail. As a graduate student, my studies should have captivated my interest, but instead I would read everything I could about running in my spare time. I’d also take study breaks to try new recipes, whether they were someone else’s or my own original creation. When you seek to find your niche, look at where your attention and money go, for there is your passion.
Try New Things, Even if They Scare You
A marathon scared me. Hiking scared me (especially because I am bit afraid of heights). I toyed with the idea of starting a blog about running for months because it scared me. We cannot spend all of our lives turning down opportunities because of fear, especially irrational fears of things that will not harm us (anything involving snakes is a whole different story). Ask yourself: what are you really scared of? Is it failure? The road to success is littered with tiny failures; what matters is the resilience to keep trying. Discomfort? Discomfort is only temporary, and the more we push ourselves out of our comfort zones, the more we find we are able to handle.
Learn as Much as You Can
Self-teaching is an incredibly valuable skill. Pick up a book, try things firsthand, and learn as much as you can. When I became serious about developing recipes, I read books on cooking science, I cooked and baking according to tried and true recipes, I observed, and then I developed my own through trial and error. They say it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert: begin those 10,000 hours now! Let your curiosity guide you and just begin to learn, through both study and personal experience.
Shape Your Goals Around Your Niche
When it comes to pursuing your passion, you have to make priorities when it comes to your goals. If you really wish to qualify for the Boston Marathon, then you should focus on marathon training rather than deciding that this is the year you start Crossfit. If you want to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, then you should shape your short-term goals around that long-term goal. If something truly is your passion, then this should overall be easy; sometimes, though, it is hard to trim away the fat and say no to the extra things that pop up in our schedules or distract us from our major goals.
Questions of the Day:
Whether it’s with hobbies, blogging, or work, do you have a particular niche?
What are your passions, hobbies, and special fields of interest?