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OCR: Big Fish in a Small Pond – Lessons Learned from 7 years in OCR

Posted on December 8, 2016 by Margaret Schlachter

bigfishsmallfishWe are nearing the end of yet another year. As the obstacle racing community starts to shift from muddy weekends to holiday cheer, it is as good a time as any to share a few lessons I have learned over the last seven years in the industry and more importantly in the digital space.

It’s Still A Small Pond

Every day on Mud Run Guide I write about the obstacle racing industry. I watch the trends, evolution, and progress (or lack of). I spent earlier this year watching ratings for shows like Spartan: Ultimate Team Challenge and wrote about what they meant on a larger scale for the industry. I watch social media each day and watch those at different levels argue about what “direction” the industry or “sport” should take. I spend A LOT of time observing, then reporting on what I see.

At the end of it all, while participation in OCR is still active, and television shows continue to emerge, the REAL Industry overall is still weekend warriors who could give a crap about a governing body, athletes making a living at the racing and more. They want to have fun, get a medal, and have some good pictures and war stories to share at the office. Nothing more.

For those of us who do find ourselves in the arguments and discussions about governing bodies (yes still are many trying to be at play), athlete salaries, sponsorships, and more we are the vast minority. We need to remember that we are still in a very small pond. We might feel like we are big fish, but the pond although growing is still small.

It Doesn’t Happen Overnight

Recently, in a few conversations and posts, I have seen people saying that they are going to jump into <insert form of media> and make money in OCR. I can attest that after seven years around OCR and six years of writing I finally feel like I am in a semi-comfortable place. You are never really comfortable in a media position.

I see many jumping into the media realm of this sport expecting to have a voice, make money, and people to just notice them. In my experience this doesn’t happen right away, it doesn’t occur in a year or two. It doesn’t happen occasionally putting out content. It doesn’t come from a single popular article. It comes from a constant grind, a steady head in the game and fingers on the keyboard or hours behind the camera. Success doesn’t just come, it is earned.

In every interview that Amelia Boone, arguably the industry’s largest superstar, participates in she attributes success to hard work and dedication over the long run. Again success doesn’t just come.

The part more people don’t realize is it took years for me to make my first paycheck solely based on writing. Yes, years. First, it was years of writing for myself and others (for free), putting my work out there wherever and whenever I could. Every time I was turned down, I learned and worked harder. When I saw people around me more successful, I sought guidance and mentorship. I don’t know it all, far from it. I have learned to take my lumps.

Good Work Trumps All

A while ago I decided to make a change. I spent a lot of time thinking about how my work would be perceived and if it would be “liked” by people etc… As often told, you cannot change others opinions of you, but you can focus on yourself. I decided to make the shift, instead of pandering to “likes” and accolades, I decided just to focus on “doing good work.”

I made the mental shift from working for some invisible award or recognition to just producing the best work I could and letting the work speak for itself. The change has been powerful and in the process made me shed a lot of ego. For good work trumps all at the end of the day. That should always be the goal, and the industry will only be better for it.

Without Passion There is Nothing

Anyone working in the obstacle racing industry will tell you they are not in it for the money. Because in reality there is a lot less than most people think. Most race companies operate on a razor thin budget a common thread that extends to in the whole industry.

So why instead of money are people doing it? Passion. However the moment you lose your passion for this industry it’s not a good place to be. Passion is what keeps the industry evolving, and many of the people in it have more passion than I have seen in any other industry.

While the majority of the participants are just in it for fun, have their fun and leave. The people behind the curtain working to bring all the parts together are the glue of the industry. We just have to remember we are still in a small pond.