This post is presented by OPEN Forum®. All opinions expressed are 100% my own.
I’ve learned a few things since I started to publish content online in 1996.
The medium is not the message; don’t be afraid to adapt to changing patterns of engagement.
In the business world as well as the personal, our needs and desires fluctuate over time; we’re only human, after all. And it’s reasonable to expect that levels of communication among ourselves will similarly fluctuate. So is it more healthy to reject these fluctuations as a hindrance and go out of our way to restrict their influence on our overall progress, or do we learn to adapt to these fluctuations and use them to our advantage?
Here’s an example. Not too long ago, a certain network was the big social media bigwig on the map. Everyone who was anyone used it. For a solid several years, people couldn’t imagine a world without this particular network. Its brand name was synonymous with social media itself. And then, almost as if overnight, a different social network gave it a sound, unceremonious bump on the noggin and took its place.
As vast chunks of the Internet’s populace migrated from the old network to the new, they left behind years of friendships, connections, and personal content that had once seemed as indelible as the presidential faces carved into the rock of Mount Rushmore. In denial of this changing dynamic in the social media world, some still clung stubbornly to the old network (perhaps some still do) and refused to make the pilgrimage to the new.
Others kept a foot in each place — at least for a time — maintaining those old friendships, connections, and content while forging new ones. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with endearing oneself to a certain measure of nostalgia, but it’s wise to know when to move on. If you can strike a balance between shifting paradigms in communication, you’ll be prepared for what’s to come while not completely abandoning what you’ve already spent time building.
Don’t be flummoxed by the flux!
A little bit of personality goes a long way.
It’s long been said that it’s not what you say so much as how you say it that leaves an effective, memorable impression on your audience. Comedians rely on this principle to ensure that their jokes pack a punch with a carefully calculated efficiency of words (and possibly actions if we’re talking about a Buster Keaton or a Jackie Chan).
The message you’re trying to convey may be similar to a message that someone else is — or a bunch of someone elses are — trying to convey, but if you want to be the messenger who’s remembered, then you need to find a way to stand out from the crowd.
For some, it’s just a simple matter of being themselves, which is a feat that comes more easily to some than others. We’re all ourselves, obviously, but do we find it easy or difficult to share the essence of what makes us ourselves with others?
We’re our first and worst obstacles to success, but each and every one of us has a voice. Whether we find it effortless to make that voice heard because we’re blessed with the charisma of Frank Sinatra or we really have to work at it because we’re shyer than a box of turtles, conveying personality with this voice is what’s going to make or break the presentation. Stifle your inner critic, hold your head up high, and be confident in the power of your own voice.
You may be surprised to find out that people want to hear what you have to say once you give yourself the permission to tell them.
Be mindful of the ever-shifting delta; stay as close as possible to the center of “what you want to do,” “what you can do,” and “what people want from you.”
Anyone who’s ever gotten caught up in the rat race of chasing a paycheck as a means to an end — that end merely consisting of survival — knows how hard it can be to break such a cycle. If you’re not living your life in a way that’s purposeful to you in some way beyond basic sustenance, it’s time to seek the nearest exit and find a new road that’ll get you to where you want to go — because, friend, you’re lost!
Of course you need to keep those basic survival needs satisfied, but you shouldn’t neglect the things that make you want to get out of bed in the morning, either. Surely there’s a dream you’ve wanted to chase (instead of the aforementioned rat race paycheck), but somewhere along the way you were discouraged — either by repressive relatives, a streak of bad luck, a distracting (but unsatisfying) career path, or some other unsupportive dose of reality.
I’m not trying to say that we’re all going to get to pilot spaceships or live among narwhals or climb Everest, but we shouldn’t — I will dare to say can’t — let our passions fall by the wayside simply because their realization isn’t entirely practical for our financial furtherance. Find a way to incorporate these dreams into what you do or let them guide you toward a realm that’s more amenable to keeping them alive instead of crushing them.
In other words: keep an eye on what you’d rather be doing with your life if you’re not already lucky enough to be doing it, be aware of your strengths and weaknesses that have an influence on your goal, and try to tie this goal into helping others recognize your value and, in turn, help you achieve it in a mutually beneficial exchange — whether it’s in currency, ideas, connections, or friendships that last a lifetime.
You want something from the world and the world wants something from you; it’s a win/win situation waiting to happen as long as you don’t forget what it is that you want and what it is that you have to offer.
The value of your product or service isn’t as valuable as your connection to community.
While we should be proud of whatever it is that we’re creating for the world, we shouldn’t treat it as a “game over” accomplishment. As an entrepreneur, you learn that the value of the incredible, world-changing thing in which you’ve invested no small amount of sweat and (we can hope not too much) blood is entirely dependent on how much of the world knows that it even exists.
You’re going to want to monitor the pulse of the community you’re courting — and keep monitoring that pulse once a real connection to that community develops. Feedback, both good and bad, is crucial to ensuring that your course is true by letting you know where corrections are required.
And, as above where we talked about the importance of attaching personality to your message, interacting with your community on a regular basis will cultivate loyalty as long as you let the people in that community know that you’re paying attention to — and, most important, you value — what they’re saying.
Nobody will care about your business more than you will.
Don’t take it personally, but none of the above advice matters if you expect that the good citizens of the world will fall over themselves to throw their money — or even their attention — at you and your business just because you somehow feel as if you deserve it.
It’s quite possible that your years of hard work and worry are being rewarded in some parallel universe where fairness rules the day with a NERF-cushioned fist of justice — because maybe you really do deserve it. Alas, you and I live in a much less charitable universe than is probably ideal, so we have to make allowances for the missteps we take during the trials we face while trying to chase the paychecks and the dreams in reasonable balance.
It’s possible to follow every scrap of heartfelt advice from others who have made a similar journey on the path of entrepreneurship, but it won’t always apply seamlessly to the situation at hand because the advice was squeezed from lessons learned, ultimately, on a path that someone else walked.
But don’t get discouraged; the map is always changing. Take it as a challenge. Ultimately, the perils endured while pursuing your own path are 100 percent yours, but then so are the rewards.