Gorillas in the niche

By David Crandall
Gorilla in the tree

I'm just a gorilla chillin' in the online jungle (source: brainware3000)

From Aliens to Gorillas

In the late 80’s, between fighting aliens and being a working girl, Sigourney Weaver starred in a movie called Gorillas in the Mist. In this “based on a true story” movie, she played that part of Dian Fossey who studied the mountain gorillas of Rwanda. At first she observed them from a distance learning as much as possible through pure observation.

As the movie progresses, she begins to make contact with the gorillas and eventually becomes part of their community. No longer just animals to her, she identifies as one of them to the point that she fights in their defense for a majority of the film.

Stepping in to the online world is quite similar…minus the humidity and village burning (hopefully).

1. Observation

When I first came in contact with the online entrepreneur community over a year and a half ago, I was very similar to Weaver’s character in the beginning of the film. I quietly observed from the sidelines and remained hidden.

I noted behavior. I watched as people interacted and identified who knew who and what the nature of their public relationship appeared to be. (Make no mistake, the online world has groups just like any subculture in the offline world does.) I documented what people wrote about and reoccurring themes across the blogosphere.

In this early stage, I was merely consuming the knowledge gained through observation. I was not, however, one of the gorillas. (Hell, they didn’t even know I existed!)

2. Testing the waters

As time went on, I moved away from a purely observational model. I began testing my theories and attempted to participate in my target niche. Commenting on posts, addressing people on Twitter, sending emails, and “Liking” Facebook fanpages were all things that I used to try and get the gorillas to notice me.

Slowly, people started to notice my presence. A few of the gorillas began to talk to me, but it was obvious that I was not one of them. I had no homebase (i.e. blog) to show people. No Facebook fanpages in my image. I had created no hallowed ebook or manifesto or even one information product.

But then again, I was barely past the observational stage. There was no reason to think I would blend in; I didn’t understand the nature of the community yet.

3. Gorilla-fying myself

Finally the time had come. Time to stop hiding out in the trees. Time to stop observing and hoping to be noticed.

I put on my gorilla costume (Ok, I started my blog…but work with me on this).

Like most people, the early archives reflect a lot of regurgitation of my observed knowledge. Despite the fact that I had years of professional experience and knowledge in Business Intelligence, I was still in a mimic phase online. What I wrote about was recited knowledge as I struggled to better understand the inner workings of the band (what you call a group of gorillas, btw).

As I survey the landscape now, I see that my entry into the band was no different than the majority of other gorillas and gorilla wanna-bes.

4. Becoming an actual Gorilla

At some point over the past half year, I began to write posts that were not straight regurgitation. I’ve been writing more from an experiential position than a recited one. Certainly I don’t claim to know everything but I’ve come to realize something important…

Underneath this gorilla suit I’m starting to actually become a gorilla.

As the transformation has taken place, I realize that not only have I begun to understand those things that were purely observational before but now I am combining observational knowledge with my areas of expertise and creating new ideas that I have not seen before. And being the personality type that I am, I am seeking to share them.

Monday I announced that I will be starting a new blog that is more focused on Business Intelligence for the online entrepreneur and business starter. I decided to do this once I noticed my gorilla-like reflection in my computer screen. While not the alpha male of the niche, I believe that I am becoming a recognized member of the community.

I can’t tell you how happy that makes me!

I see lurkers in the trees

I know there are people in each of the aforementioned stages reading this right now.

  1. Observation - Perhaps you only show up as a reoccurring IP address hitting my blog. You’re still in that observational stage seeking to figure out what all of us primates are doing over here in the jungle.
  2. Testing - Or you have decided to start making contact. You’ve started a Twitter account or have taken the plunge to actually comment on some sites. You’re not ready to rush headstrong into a group of savages, but you ARE willing to see if anyone with a kind disposition is willing to notice you.
  3. Gorilla-fying – Or maybe you’re in the next stage, struggling with putting on your gorilla suit in hopes that you will look like what you have observed. You’re constructing a blog or some other platform for communication and contributing what you can. You have ideas forming about some things you’d like to say and are trying to figure out just how to get them out. But you don’t feel completely transformed just yet. You are still wearing a suit.
  4. Gorilla - Then there are some other gorillas out there reading this. You don’t have to wear the costume anymore. You’re utilizing experiential knowledge to guide you instead of regurgitated recitations. Sure, you don’t know everything and stand to learn more continually, but you’ve reached a place where you know more than just the “What”, you understand the “Why”.

What stage are you?

The quickest way to shoot through the ranks is to reach out to someone further ahead than you are. Unlike the movie, many of the online gorillas love reaching out and making connections.

This will be one of the primary functions of Heroic Destiny going forward, to connect with people and become a resource for identifying with the larger community.

I want to help you become a gorilla. I understand the frustration of hiding in the trees and hoping that someone notices you. I am intimately familiar with the frustration that caused you to look to the jungle in the first place.

I can’t help you if you stay hidden

If you’ve only remained a reoccurring IP address up to this point, make today the day you move to the next level. If you are testing things out or attempting to put on your gorilla suit, speak up.

The time is now for you to leave the safety of the trees and become one of us. We need you and the art that you will create by becoming a gorilla.

You are the only gorilla like you.

Before you comment, think about what phase you are in. Then tell me what it is and what you need to progress to the next level.

(And no, I’m not going to change the name of the site to Heroic Gorillas…or Heroic Unicorns for that matter.)

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  • http://www.tropicalmba.com Dan

    That’s what I mean when I call you beast. :)

    • http://www.HeroicDestiny.com David Crandall

      I’m a monster…RAAAWR!!!

      Now all I need is a gorgeous lair. Do you have a lair?

    • http://www.tropicalmba.com Dan

      No but now I feel like I need one. Hmm.

    • http://wilsonusman.com wilson

      you crack me up…when I come to your blog, I’m entertained
      I learn something, and I feel heroic.

      Funny video LMAO

    • http://www.HeroicDestiny.com David Crandall

      Pam Slim borrowed my unicorns for the day so I had to find another animal to spice things up around here.

      While I’m glad that you were entertained, I am happy that you learned something…and LOVE that you feel heroic. :D

  • http://www.joshcrocker.com Josh Crocker

    If being weird is expert marketing online then you, my unicorn gorilla friend, are an expert.

    This is a great reference post for many who are “riding the fence”. Be it the fence of observation, or of barely getting involved, or of being involved and wanting to ramp things up to the next level (being like the king of the gorillas – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4hdrcDDqRHk). This is a great “guide” blog post that I can see eventually being linked back to, although not through a post, but rather through some kind of speaking event.

    You’re well on your way, you big cuddly ape :)

    – JC

    • http://www.HeroicDestiny.com David Crandall

      Actually, as I wrote this I felt like it could easily be expanded into something else. If nothing else, the visuals are pretty evident. :D

      Want a banana?

  • http://www.bybloggers.net Jonathan Wondrusch

    I enjoy the analogy you’ve chosen here… seems spot on from our skype conversation about becoming an expert blogger – a thought leader – instead of a regurgitator.

    Thanks for leading the way on this one!

    • http://www.HeroicDestiny.com David Crandall

      Thought leader – That is a definite goal of mine. It is something that I will continually strive for in an attempt to bring value to the people who bless me with their attention.

      Plus, being a regurgitator is bad for your teeth and just makes your breath smell bad. And seriously, who wants that?

  • http://www.sonofabuisch.com Josh Buisch

    is poking your own butt and smelling your finger a stage? Then maybe I have a gorilla suit? in any case, you have an ability to make swell analogies.
    I can feel new ideas forming in my head. can’t bring them to light yet. but my neurons are growing and stretching. i’m really excited about the future!!!

    • http://www.HeroicDestiny.com David Crandall

      It’s quite possible that if you are doing those things, your business plan may need some fine tuning. Just a thought.

      I’m also excited about your future. You’ve crossed some big hurdles are positioning yourself to do some really cool stuff! You are one studly Buisch!

  • http://www.aboundlessworld.com Bud Hennekes

    You’ve created a cult of people obsessed with animal names.. ;)

    Really dig the analogy. I’m going through puberty and stumbling my way awkwardly to hang with the big boys.

    • http://www.HeroicDestiny.com David Crandall

      I think you are well on your way, my friend. I continue to be impressed with you and your thought processes. I don’t think you are actually as “awkward” as you think you are.

  • Joe Mieden

    David,
    I really loved this post. I have definately just transfered from observation to testing. I commented on a recent post (4 hour week) and shared some of my goals with you. I have been reading various blogs and got an RSS reader a couple months ago. I’ve been experimenting with what I would write for a blog for awhile, but only recently has it become a practically hypothetical exercise.
    I am now preparing content for said site and preparing to move from testing the waters to donning my gorilla-suit. What I need to do is to participate more in the comment threads and such and build more bridges with people involved in these communities.

    • http://www.HeroicDestiny.com David Crandall

      I love seeing people move through the phases! I think that building connections with people is a smart move and it is one of the ways that I have learned the most.

      I will say that I made more connections with people in the first 2 months of having an actual site than I did in a year prior of not having one. Something about having that home base gives credibility to the process.

      Feel free to holler if you have questions!

  • http://www.informationjunkiesanonymous.com Ryah Albatros

    Hi David, here I come out of lurkdom and I’m wearing my gorilla suit! All I need to do is stop worrying that I’m not good enough, and just get on with it. I’ve taken a couple of steps this week to conquering it. One is a Facebook ad! Totally new territory for me. :)

    • http://www.HeroicDestiny.com David Crandall

      Ryah, I’m not sure why you are lurking in obscurity, your site is gorgeous! I remember reading the article on Copyblogger that you said inspired your site. Hats off to you for deciding to not be a “gunna” anymore.

      I’m curious as to how your interaction with other “gorillas” is going thus far. Where can we find you socially? Twitter, Facebook, etc?

      I look forward to seeing more from you and think you are off to a fantastic start!

    • http://completeflake.com LaVonne Ellis

      Ryah, I have a sneaking suspicion we’ve met before. Am I right? Love your site — what a fab idea!

  • Caroline

    Hey David! i just love this post, i can relate exactly to what you are saying and i would say im in stage 3 :)I have been hiding in the jungle for quite a while now, just reading, learning and understanding and im glad i found you guys, started to feel really lonely outside the jungle :/ But im trying to make contacts and actually working on my own blog and project. Thanks for welcoming me in the community, i feel that my life has a purpose again.

    • http://www.HeroicDestiny.com David Crandall

      Caroline, I can relate with the loneliness outside the jungle. I’m curious if you have a Twitter account or if there is some place people can interact with you as you prepare to launch your blog.

      I’d love to see more of you and your story. Also…welcome to the jungle. ;)

    • Caroline

      Hey David! thanks for your quick answer, I will answer
      to your email too and tell you my whole story. I will try
      not too be too boring ;P
      I don’t have a Twitter account yet, and my blog is not
      launched yet…a friend of mine is working on the design
      but i already have some content for it and a clear idea of
      what i want.
      Im glad to be a new member of the community!

  • http://www.theskooloflife.com Srinivas Rao

    Brilliant. Well, I can say I have successfully made the transition to Gorilla and now I just need my gorilla AS#$ to get paid for being so hairy:). You bring up some great points. I think something that I’m realizing more and more is that people take what they already know about for granted. Sometimes the most epic posts are the things you already know about but other people don’t. Lately it seems that I’ve just hit this momentum. I think that gorilla mode happens when people start find their voice. Definitely great advice here.

    • http://www.HeroicDestiny.com David Crandall

      Srini, for sure you are a gorilla! And I totally agree that the suit comes off to reveal the real thing once you start finding your voice.

      I think these phases are ones that all of us have to go through in some form or another for anything new (online OR off). It’s been amazing to feel how much easier things are once you put in some hours. I realized this past week that I’ve already spent more than 1,000 hours on my blog and networking since I started. Do anything 1,000 hours and you pick up a thing or two.

      But yes, I’ve thought of you as a gorilla for a long time! (And I mean that in context with this article. LOL)

  • http://completeflake.com LaVonne Ellis

    David, you never cease to amaze me. What a freaking brilliant post. Love it. Love *you*!

    And yes, I want a banana. :)

    • http://www.HeroicDestiny.com David Crandall

      To my fellow gorilla, thank you! You are doing awesome stuff and teaching based on experience. I look at how much we learned from doing the Customer Love challenge and know that we learned a ton of first hand knowledge from that!!

      And yes, let’s go get some bananas!

  • http://joelrunyon.com/two3 Joel Runyon

    Great post and one that newcomers need to hear.

    There’s always more room for Gorillas and like you said “we need you.”

    Also, i just registered the domain, “heroicgorillas.com” so you’re sol.

  • http://www.thenichethinktank.com Larry Clark

    Greta post as I am about to interview you. Very good analogy, and some hidden kung fu in there too! Consider it stolen mister! :)
    Great Post!!!

  • http://treydmarq.wordpress.com Anthony K.

    I find myself somewhere between testing and gorilla-fying. I am currently working on a blog (and content for said blog) and have a Twitter account, but I have rarely commented on someone else’s blog or responded to tweets (primarily have read blog posts, downloaded e-books and read tweets).

    I want to become more active, start to network via Twitter and comments (hell, maybe even an old school email, people still send those, right?) and get some content up soon.

    Great post about watching the gorillas and then becoming one. This may be the motivation I need to put the costume on and merge with the band.

    • http://www.HeroicDestiny.com David Crandall

      I look forward to your donning of the gorilla costume. Bring some bananas with you. ;)

  • http://completeflake.com LaVonne Ellis

    Can’t believe I didn’t ‘get’ your title until now. I need another banana.

    • http://www.HeroicDestiny.com David Crandall

      Well, I did reference a movie that is over 20 years old. LOL

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  • http://castlesintheair.org Nina Yau

    I love this analogy, David. I love being the only gorilla that no one else can replicate! That calls for cutting through the crap (the mist) and being comfortable in my own skin. :)

    • http://www.HeroicDestiny.com David Crandall

      NINA!! Thanks so much for stopping by! You are definitely a gorilla that is un-replicable! I love that you seem so comfortable in your own skin.

      Congrats again on the recent big change. So happy for you. :D

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  • Darren Bond

    Hilarious and insightful; great combination.

    I’m just starting a consulting and contracting practice after thirty years at telecom company in various roles here in Vancouver. I’m very much enjoying the process – right at the beginning phase – and experiencing exactly what you’ve written. My website is next!

    So, perhaps there’s a bit of an untapped area overlaying demographics (I’m fifty) with the gorilla stages.

    Thanks, great stuff!

    • http://www.HeroicDestiny.com David Crandall

      For sure if you can tap into an untouched demographic that is present in your market that is gold! I’ll definitely be interested in seeing what you do in the future; keep me updated! :)

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