Many people who have the historical memory of a different communication world, intuit that the digital world is moving too fast, taking away too much of the “old” world and values that used to be held dear, and is corroding what has remained.
There is also the unstated worry, that the world of digital is moving so fast that it has passed by the wise, in favor of the ignorant, ever seeking knowledge, but failing to ever find the Truth.
The list of problems and issues these people have with modern digital communication are endless:
Lack of relevant empathy.
Increases in narcissism.
Lack of ability to listen.
Loss of critical thinking skills.
Loss of interpersonal communication skills.
Valuing speed to being first over the patience to determine whether you could be wrong.
And so on. And so on. And so on.
I have immense empathy for those who believe that the world is passing them by.
There is an incalculable need for human wisdom from all areas and perspectives to add value by leveraging new digital tools, that it would be a shame to let people other than the wise, to have all the fun in our new digital paradises.
Don’t you agree?
The steps to building an effective, online content pirate ship that will surprise your competitors, aren’t flashy or interesting.
But they are effective.
Step 1: Know which content ship to build before you build it.
There are three modern forms of shipbuilding in the value creation space online: writing (i.e. blogs, books, etc.); audio (i.e. voice search, podcast, etc.); and video (i.e. performing, editing, etc.).
You’ve got to know which one of the three is at the edges, which one of the three is the most valuable to you, and which one of the three will get you the furthest.
You’ve also got to just pick one. Better to pick the one you’re good at, rather than the one that’s most popular right now.
Step #2: Pick the right content slip, the right building tools, and the right materials to build.
Knowing your own intuition is key to the first part (pick the right slip) because, as the person building the pirate ship, no one can tell you what the “right” slip is. And, if you try to build a pirate ship in another slip, too far away from the water (i.e. other opportunities) you fail.
Knowing yourself is the key to the second part (pick the right tools) because, even there are many low to no cost solutions to building a pirate ship of valuable, online content, every tool is not for you. And there are a lot of dead ends.
Knowing what you want to accomplish with the ship you’re building is the key to the third part (pick the right materials) because if you pick the wrong shipbuilding materials, your pirate ship of content could sink before it even leaves the slip. Or, much like the Spruce Goose of old, it could only fly once. And then crash.
Step #3: Execute the building with patience, perseverance, and prayer.
Step #4: Launch the ship with a crew (or by yourself) and raid the edges of the empire.
Having an attitude of shipping (launching the ship) and an attitude of raiding (staying on the edges) allows the pirate to explore first with their content, survive second, and to thrive third.
The real tragedy is that many people (now as in the past) will instead choose to eat off the raiding of other pirates, rather than taking the opportunity to build a ship of their own.
There will never be enough reassurance, independence, permission, opportunity, or support for you to act, and potentially fail.
There will never be enough reassurance, independence, permission, opportunity, or support for you to act, and potentially succeed.
So, instead of waiting around for all the conditions to be right, act with clarity, candor, and courage; but, not with hope.
Act with a plan to succeed despite what the outcome may be.
Not because of the outcome.
Because if there will never be enough, then there’s no need to wait for the ducks to line up in a row.
The problem with many (if not most) people, processes, services, and products is that they are unremarkable.
This is not to say that they are unreliable, undesirable, or unmistakable.
There are people, processes, services, and products that fill niches that are banal, boring, and seemingly unnecessary.
They aren’t worth talking about, thinking about, or even spending a lot of cognitive effort in justifying.
The problem of unremarkability is compounded by the fact that the organizations developing and promoting these products, services, processes, and people, is that the solution to their unremarkability is thought to be a lack of attention and awareness.
That’s not the problem.
Not even close.
Here’s a tip, for winning the long game.
Instead of trying to figure out how to scale unremarkability with money, time, or other resources, figure out how to scale the number of activities (i.e. process, services, products, etc.) that are actually remarkable.
When followers say that they want self-awareness, storytelling, and conflict management as traits in their best leaders, then leaders must ask questions starting with the words “why,” “how,” and “what.”
But, if the answer to questions beginning with “why,”is an ever-descending whirlpool of internal negativity, defensiveness, and fear-based answers in leaders, then followers must ask what the real purpose for pursuing the attaining of self-awareness is.
But, if the answer to questions beginning with “how” is applying, and advocating for, ever-increasing layers of organizational bureaucracy and lethargy in the team, then followers must ask what the real purpose of storytelling is.
But, if the answer to questions beginning with “what,”is endless handwringing about the potential consequences of actions before they are even taken by leaders, then followers must ask what the real purpose of positive conflict will be.
Self-awareness, storytelling, and conflict management are the only traits that matter in the 21st century if we want leaders to lead effectively.
These traits—which are really skills—are also critical to encourage if we want to create more leaders rather than more compliant followers.
The lack of inner curiosity, desire to care, and hiding from decisions are the real skills hobbling the development and growth of the kinds of leadership that followers say they want.
Let’s eliminate those skills first.
Outcomes of processes are the only things worth paying for.
No matter what your role at work, you are paid for producing outcomes from processes. The people who get paid the most, produce the highest value outcomes. The people who get paid the least, produce the least valuable outcomes.
Producing outcomes is also valued—and thus rewarded—in ways that have nothing to do with money: Prestige, status, attention, awareness, these are all rewards that are tied to specifically produced outcomes that an audience, and organization, or an individual, value.
The most excellent move that a person who is a freelancer, a consultant, or an entrepreneur can make, is to raise the price of an outcome to reflect continued, growing value. Not because it costs them more to generate that outcome—in actuality, the production costs are sunk and meaningless after a certain point—but because the value of that outcome becomes more desirable to the market that individual provider serves.
We attach all kinds of subjective meaning to outcomes and since they are really the only things that we value, failure and success, while remaining subjective, become more and more acute and infinite. But only if the person or organization producing the valuable outcome is willing to let go of their attachment to the success or failure of a particular outcome.
Thomas Edison and Michael Jordan both “got” this distinction. But if you’re still wrapped up in the mindset of a particular granular success or failure outcome, then you’ve missed that larger lesson.
There are three big tips to come out of this line of thinking that will serve anybody well as they move forward:
- Outcomes are the only things worth paying for, but sometimes an innovator can be too far ahead of the market (thus, the innovator designation) or a crackpot can be too far behind the market (thus, the crackpot designation). Each person has to decide where they want to be in relation to the market and what the process is to get to the outcome that they are seeking to make valuable.
- Outcomes have nothing to do with comparison, and have everything to do with personal satisfaction. One of the larger problems with the social media landscape is that people display as if the outcome of a process is the only thing that can connect themselves with an audience. But showing the audience the process, slowly revealing why the outcome has occurred, is an outcome in and of itself. And worth rewarding, not with comparison, but with massive differentiation. Each person has to decide their comfort level with the slow burn of a long-desired reveal.
- Outcomes can be argued and debated, but in the end, when it comes time to render payment, they cannot be denied. This is evident most baldly in the world of sports, where the distance between a process and an outcome is perceived as being immediate (though there is usually years of preparation, sacrifice, humility, and ambition behind any outcome), and is less evident in the world of teaching, or parenting. These are places where twelve to twenty years of a process leads to outcomes that cannot be denied. Each person has to decide their own pace at which they would like to move toward a reward.
Focus on the process, highly value the outcome, and price the outcome against the market accordingly.
I thought it would take less time to hit this milestone than it has taken.
But that’s not an unusual expectation. Many people overestimate what they can do in a year and underestimate what they can accomplish in ten years.
My expectations with this blog started out high minded and then crashed to earth and then became high-minded again.
And you have responded.
You have retweeted, e-mailed, reposted, commented, Facebook “liked” and “shared” posts, and have even gone as far as to reach out to me offline to give me feedback.
That’s how this blog grows.
It’s not like kudzu, where you plant a vine and then come back a year later and there’s growth without investment.
It’s more like planting corn: Some years it’s good. Other years it’s not so good. But the farmer still tills the soil, plants the seed, prays on the knees, and then brings in whatever harvest there may be.
Year after year. Bumper crops and thin ones.
What comes next? What does post 1,001 to 2,000 look like?
Well, there’s another book coming this year, a collection of my best posts about work, disrupting your workplace, and how to accomplish all of that while also disrupting your boss. And it’s about why external training and development doesn’t work for the creation of change.
Look for that in the Fall of 2018.
There will also be a shift as parts of this blog go elsewhere on the web to serve other functions.
In 2018, as I advance and grow my personal brand, the writing will separate, and my blog posts covering conflict management, self-awareness, storytelling, and other contemporary leadership and people management skills and best practices will be featured in this space more prominently
Articles about personal leadership, business development, branding, entrepreneurship, bootstrapping, risk-taking, marketing, social media, the future of human communication on the Internet, and other more personal brand based content will migrate to a new site, focused on building my personal brand with an eye towards keynotes and speaking opportunities.
Look for this split to happen gradually, and then all at once by the Fall of 2018.
But no matter how it plays out, I want to thank you for joining me on the journey so far.
I write this blog because it’s good for my mental and physical health.
I write this blog because it’s good for my writing muscle and it further establishes my own “voice” in my own head.
I write this blog, because it connects me to you, whether that connection happens now, or one, two, five, ten, or twenty years from now.
I write this blog, whether anybody will read this blog or blogs in the future that I may launch, or not.
I write this blog, because the acts of thinking, writing, and then publishing to the world, is still an amazing thing—even in a world of Internet thinness.
So, the real question is where would you and I like to go next?
There is a species of thinness at the center of most of what you are reading, absorbing, and choosing to be activated by, on the Internet.
There were many people who believed that the rise of the Internet would herald deeper, more intimate connections between people.
They believed that the mechanism of combining television, radio, computer technology, and phone and cable lines, would herald a newer, fresher, more meaningful communication experience for humanity.
They believed that the Internets’ ability to scale empathy, connection, and action, would overcome the human tendencies toward tribalism, passivity, and disconnection.
And to a certain degree, they were right.
Which typically means to sell you more stuff at a faster rate, than ever dreamed of before…
…and as the long tail has gotten even longer, and as the “get rich quick” artists have fallen away;
…and as the large communication conglomerates have dominated more and more of the center;
…and as the average person has decided that active publishing and shipping is too hard, and that passive consumption is easier;
…and as the metrics of engagement have proven to be more and more inflated;
…the thinness of the big dominating the center, has become more and more apparent.
In the face of these realities, the hard thing now is to stick to the outer edges of the Internet universe; to do the work of publishing hard, thick, crusty ideas; to be committed to the building of communities of like-minded people over years (and in some cases decades); and to do, say, show, and commit to the hard thing without hope of payoff.
Instant, or otherwise.
It will take a long time for the thinness to thicken up in most of what you read, absorb, and choose to be activated by, on the Internet.
At this rate, it may take another twenty years.
But if you choose not to ship, choose not to participate, choose only to observe, it may be impossible for you to act when you’re ready.
Start this year.
Much of what you read, hear, and consume on the Internet is the intellectual, spiritual and emotional equivalent of baby formula.
Much of what you read, hear, and consume on the Internet is pushed to you with the intent not of edifying you, or raising you up, or of giving you new knowledge, but is pushed to you with the intent of tearing you down, or tearing someone else down.
And because this formula, or milk, is being pushed hard by people, organizations, and systems all of whom seem well-meaning on the surface, but underneath are like ravening lions, it’s tough to know what to absorb, and what to let go of.
The conceit wrapped deeply in this conclusion, however, is that somehow during this time in human history, it’s somehow different, worse, or more intractable, than it was at any other time in the history of human interpersonal communication.
The only difference between the communication schema now (formula + malicious intent + power in access to ways of flooding (or hacking) your attention) and the schemas used in the past (from carrier pigeons to television) is the speed with which it can get to your attention.
And the speed with which you can ignore it.
For people and organizations with radical, deep ideas, serving meat to a population whose attention and desire have been hacked to artificially desire milk, the problem of speed has never been an issue.
Easy ideas, cosmetic marketing changes, and powerful manipulations are always the province of those people and organizations who seek speed over results. For them, patience is a fools’ game and something to be hacked to get to a larger goal. FOMO is just another way of creating false anticipation for information or experiences that aren’t all that fulfilling in the long-term.
Which is usually not in your best spiritual, emotional, or intellectual interest.
Beware the ravening lions.