“What can I do well for the next 10 years?”
This is a question I began asking myself early in 2019. Though I was hitting some relatively important milestones (TEDx in November 2018), I was starting to feel stagnant and burned out with this whole business of speaking/writing. For years I’ve gone back and forth with people about my not being active on social media. At the time I was still using Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. I thought I had to. The content I was creating for those platforms was bite-sized in nature which seems to be what those environments call for. This was not at all my preferred method of communication. So much can be taken out of context when you’re trying to communicate something profound in just 60 seconds. I’m not saying it can’t be done, it’s just not my style.
I haven’t talked about the 3 Self’s in a while: Self-Worth, Self-Awareness, and Self-Discipline. Loving ourselves enough (self-worth) to look hard at who we are (self-awareness) and make sustained efforts (self-discipline) to be who we want to become. That’s the mastery of 3 self’s. For me, self-awareness was kicking in big time in 2019. As I said, many things were off. I didn’t feel as though my presence on social media was authentic to who I am. “If it weren’t for having a business I wouldn’t be involved in any of this…”, something I’ve said to myself often. This post isn’t about social media or having a business. It’s about honesty with self and knowing yourself.
I realized that the social media environment was not conducive to my style of communication. I was becoming more anxious and spending more time obsessing over followers/views rather than thinking critically about the message I was putting out. I was spending more time creating little posts/videos rather than writing out well developed thoughts like those I’ve been doing for the last year. I am advocating for critical/nuanced thinking and problem solving. From a practical standpoint, working on yourself is a perpetually difficult process. It requires time and the elimination of distractions. Social Media platforms might be one of the greatest distractions of modern times. In my opinion, if you’re not ready to cut off those platforms, you’re probably not ready to do some deep, scary, introspective work. The type of work that I’m trying to get people to do.
Also, I’m a guy that gets hyper-focused when it comes to people. My girlfriend will tell you, I can’t drive safely, navigate accurately, and talk, at the same time. The conversation and the safety of my passengers take priority. I always want to go deep with conversation. That’s my style of communication. She knows that if I drive, she has to pay attention to where we’re going or we’ll end up way off course. That being said, the short, click-bait style of communication that occurs all over the internet is draining to me. And, trying to work the social media system never led to anything of consequence. I never got a single piece of business (free or otherwise) from being on social media. I get opportunities because I show up and do a good job communicating my ideas. People then refer me to others. So why not just focus on that?
Last year I asked myself if it was okay if I never got to hundreds of followers or making a lot of money. The answer was, “Yeah, that’s fine.” I also asked myself if writing on a weekly basis would do my communication skills some good. The answer was, “Yeah, it would.” Then I asked myself if I could produce a well written post 1x/week for the next 10 years. “Yeah, no matter what happens, I think I can.” How will it spread? I’m betting on word-of-mouth. Yes, that takes time but I could see myself doing this for 20-30 years now. And, without the drain that comes from communicating in a method/medium that isn’t synergistic with who I am and maybe isn’t the best environment for my message.
In this particular example, I’m self-aware enough to know what works for me. I have enough self-awareness to know that what works for me is not the norm for many people. I am going to do it anyway because I have enough self-worth to trust my own instincts above those of the bigger crowd. I have enough self-discipline to resist the temptation to do what everyone else is doing. I have enough self-discipline to stay focused on my goal and the behaviors that have shown themselves consistently effective in pursuing my goal. If problem solving is a process that develops who we are on a personal level, then I think it’s these three self’s that are the primary traits that are grown.
I had a problem: a since of stagnation with work and life in general. Examining my own stories in life led me to greater awareness of myself. Even in my romantic life I had to look at my expectations and begin to deal in the truth rather than an idealized reality. My examination of my business led me to a decision that sets me against the crowd. Most people would argue that small business’s have to be on social media in order to make it. I’m not doing that and for a long time it felt like a dirty secret I had to hide. People have literally looked at me like I was a crazy person for not doing so. I’m not trying to be rebellious, I’m just looking at the facts: Those Platforms make me anxious, which degrades the quality of my content /lifestyle, and I never received a legitimate inquiry about my business through those platforms. Why keep pouring energy into them?
It’s been scary to think that I might be shooting myself in the foot by not participating in the norms of the day but I get a lot of solace from knowing that I am thinking for myself and not simply following the herd. I have presented to many teenagers over the last 5 years and I’m confident in my role-modeling in that regard. It takes the courage to look at the truth and go your own way.
I think it’s worth noting here that I’m not an advocate of going against the grain just to be different. I’m an advocate of accuracy. When dealing with a problem, start with what you know to be true and work your way forward from there.
It takes courage to come to a different conclusion than what is normally accepted. To change your lifestyle significantly due to financial challenges… To admit character flaws and poor behaviors to a spouse/family member when you’ve been blaming them for the issues in your relationship… To admit that your greatest failures in life have come from faulty assumptions that you carried in the face of evidence… What will help you display the courage/humility to be ‘wrong’ or be perceived as a ‘fool’ in efforts to live out of the truth?